Some people say America is the land of immigrants and the only natives are Indian Americans. People from almost every other country on earth reside in America; many owe their American citizenship to ancestors who came here decades if not centuries ago. As a result it is not a surprise if festivals from all over the world are celebrated in America such as Holi, Eid, and Diwali. The purpose of this speech is to introduce you to Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo, celebrated on 5th May each year, may have Mexican origins but it is actually celebrated on a grander scale in the U.S. as opposite to Mexico and is marked by various activities such as parades, mariachi performances, and festivals (History). Unfortunately, Cinco de Mayo is poorly understood and as a Mexican, it is my desire to spread awareness about the origins of the festival. In this speech, I will not only introduce you to the origins and history of Cinco de Mayo but also describe how it celebrated in Mexico and the U.S. In addition, I will also mention misconceptions about the festival in the U.S.

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The origin of Cinco de Mayo lies in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Even though Mexico had gained independence from Spain in 1821, the following decades were chaotic. The country didn’t only continue to suffer from internal conflicts including political ones but also major conflicts such as Mexican-American War and Mexican Civil War of 1858 which had disastrous impact on the national economy. As a result, Mexico acquired huge debt from countries like England, Spain, and France. France which had ambitious imperial plans, decided to use Mexico’s difficulty in meeting its debt obligations to its advantage and French Empire decided to install Napoleon III’s relative Archduke Maximilian of Austria as Mexico’s ruler. France invaded Mexio’s gulf coast in 1862 and began advancing towards Mexico City. U.S. was unable to provide assistance to Mexico at the time due to its own internal struggles in the form of Civil War. Along the way, French Army was met with stuff resistance from 4,500 men armed militia being led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin at forts of Loreto and Guadalupe near Puebla. Despite being in greater number at 6,500, French Army’s advance was successfully halted. This victory was good news for Mexican people in a long time and went a long way towards revitalizing patriotism and sense of unity. But the victory was short-lived as France sent 30,000 more men and Mexico City was under French rule a year later (MexOnline). Now that we have looked into the origins of the festival, we will review how it is celebrated in Mexico, U.S., and certain other areas.

While Cinco de Mayo has Mexican origins, it is more popular in the U.S. than it is in Mexico where it is primarily celebrated in the state of Puebla. Some events associated with Cinco de Mayo in Mexico include military parades and recreations of Puebla battle. Despite its popularity in the U.S though it has Mexican origins, it is not even a federal holiday in Mexico. On the other hand, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated on a grand scale in the U.S. Americans host Cinco de Mayo parties for friends and family members. The colors of Mexican flag are apparent on a number of items from dresses to decoration pieces such as balloons. Mexican folk music is played and Mariachi Bands perform at festivals. One also witnesses Mexican Dances and Mexican food such as enchiladas, tacos, and tortilla chips are prepared at homes as well as sold by vendors. In addition to Mexico and the U.S., Cinco de Mayo is also celebrated in other areas of the world.

Cinco de Mayo in Canada is marked by an annual skydiving competition while a prominent feature of Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Cayman Islands is an air guitar competition. In Malta, Cinco de Mayo is associated with consumption of Mexican beer on a large scale (Punchbowl, Inc.). To some extent, commercial entities have also been responsible for promoting Cinco de Mayo because they enjoy sales of food, drinks, and decoration items (MexOnline). While it is a positive thing that Cinco de Mayo has international appeal, unfortunately some do not follow the true spirit of the festival and often engage in disrespectful behavior.

It may not be an exaggeration to claim that one of the reasons Cinco de Mayo is popular in America is because Americans tend to welcome any opportunity to celebrate and have one. One argument in support of this theory is that many people who celebrate Cinco de Mayo are not aware of the significance of this festival. Some think it is an official holiday in Mexico which it is not. Others mistakenly believe that it is Mexico’s Independence Day which is actually September 6 and not May 5. Another problem with some Americans who celebrate Cinco de Mayo is that they sometimes promote stereotypes through actions such as by wearing sombreros and wearing moustaches though not everyone understands the implications of his/her actions. Some also don’t realize the significance of Cinco de Mayo because excessive drinking doesn’t honor the sacrifices made by Mexicans at the Battle of Puebla (Rodriguez).

Festivals from all over the world are celebrated in America due to the country’s cultural diversity one of which is Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo is in remembrance of the surprise victory by a small army of armed militia against invading French troops but it is only celebrated in parts of Mexico unlike America where it is huge. Some of the popular activities on Cinco de Mayo include house parties, consuming Mexican food and drinks, and going to Cinco de Mayo festivals. Despite the popularity of Cinco de Mayo, a significant proportion of Americans do not understand the background the festival and many mistakenly assume it is Mexico’s Independence Day which actually falls on September 6. In addition, some also engage in display of stereotypes though not everyone is aware of the consequences of his/her actions. The popularity of Cinco de Mayo also reminds us that America is truly a land of immigrants. While we should celebrate international festivals, we should also take the initiative to learn more about the background in order to not violate the spirit of the festival.

    References
  • History. Cinco de Mayo. 19 May 2014 .
    MexOnline. The History of Cinco de Mayo. 19 May 2014 http://www.mexonline.com/
  • Punchbowl, Inc. Cinco de Mayo Traditions. 19 May 2014 http://www.punchbowl.com/
  • Rodriguez, Cundy Y. How not to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. 5 May 2014. 19 May 2014 http://www.cnn.com/