Cinco de Mayo!

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photo by D. B. King

On May 5th, around the United States and Mexico, colorful decorations will hang, mariachi bands will play, and people will party in the street to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. This holiday celebrates Mexican culture – the music, the traditions, the food, but why, exactly, are we celebrating on this day? Some people think that Cinco de Mayo marks the day when Mexico became independent from Spain, or when the Mexican Civil War ended. Nope! Actually, Cinco de Mayo celebrates a battle in a war that Mexico lost!  

Mexico had a tough start as a country, enduring war after war, first against America in 1846, then against themselves in the Mexican Civil War. When all this was over, the country had spent so much on war that there was very little money for regular people to spend in their lives; in other words, the economy was hurt. As countries sometimes do, Mexico borrowed money from other nations in order to help itself. And, as friends sometimes do when you borrow a toy or book from them, those countries got tired of waiting for Mexico to give their property back and came over to collect. No, their moms didn’t drive them over in the van or anything like that; fleets of warships representing England, Spain and France crossed the Atlantic Ocean, entered the Mexican coastline and demanded that Mexico pay them back.

Mexico didn’t have the money to pay them though! What’s a young country to do?! All they had were vouchers to give to the representatives from these countries, papers that double-super-promised to someday pay them back. This satisfied England and Spain and they went home, but to France, this meant war! Sacre bleu!

Under the command of Napoleon III, France invaded Mexico with the intention to totally control it. They marched from the coastline to Mexico City, and on the way passed the small Mexican state of Puebla. The Mexican soldiers at Puebla were vastly outnumbered, but in this fight on May 5, 1862, called La Batalla de Puebla, Mexico somehow overcame the odds and defeated the French forces! Now that’s reason to celebrate!

France eventually managed to occupy Mexico, but they were delayed a whole year by this surprising Mexican victory. The shocking, underdog victory at Puebla has come to symbolize the Mexican spirit of resilience and tenacity. Therefore, on its anniversary every year, Mexico and places with many people of Mexican descent play Cumbia music, wave the Mexican flag, eat tamales, hit pinatas, and generally celebrate all things Mexico!

Of course, at Sylvan Dell we celebrate Mexican people and culture every day! Each and every one of our dozens of titles are available in Spanish, such as Los árboles de globos and La naturaleza recicla—¿Lo haces tú? and El detective deductive!

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