When I just arrived to the US, I felt glad when I saw that everybody here celebrate 5 de Mayo. I even received a couple of backslappings.
I have to say that I felt proud but also curious since we do not celebrate 5 de Mayo in Mexico. Yes, you read correctly, for us 5 de Mayo is not a big holiday. Please do not take this wrong, the holiday exists, and we take the day off, but there is no celebration around the country; just in the city where the event happened.
Then I dug deeper, and I found a fascinating story about the 5 de Mayo in the US. By the way, this is fully connected to our intro, Mexican and American cultures are connected, influencing one to the other every day.
Firstly, I would like to start from the begging, giving you some context about the 5 de Mayo battle. This event started in 1838, just 18 years after Spain recognizes Mexican independence. We also call it “La Guerra de los pasteles” (The war of the cakes). Back then the French baker, Monsieur Remontel, claimed to the Mexican government $60,000 Mexican pesos for some cakes that the Mexican police ate and didn´t pay. This was enough for the French King, Louis Philippe, to request not sixty thousand but six hundred thousand Mexican pesos to the Mexican government due to other debts that the Mexican government had with France. Then, France treads to block Mexican commerce, they did and succeed. However, the negotiations were going to no where and France decided to invade Mexico. In December 1938 France captured Veracruz (Mexican west coast) and Mexico accepted to pay the debt.
A few years later, Mexico was in bankruptcy and had debts with many European countries, one of them, France.
France, once again, decided to invade Mexico in 1862 with 6,500 soldiers, they crossed Veracruz planning to take Mexico City. In their way to Mexico City they passed by Puebla city, there, Ignacio Zaragoza (Spoiler alert, the hero of the story) was waiting them together with 2,000 soldiers and 2,700 farmers. Using whatever they had on hand, they defeated one of the most powerful armies of the world at that time. Therefore Benito Juarez, former Mexican President, stablished the 5 de Mayo as a national holiday.
Once the holiday was established, the feeling of victory growth rapidly, mainly because it was a young country and the army was poorly prepared.
But this is not the reason why 5 de Mayo is celebrated in the US.
Ignacio Zaragoza, the hero of our story, was born in Texas in 1829, when Texas still belonged to Mexico, before the territory was given after the Guadalupe-Hidalgo trade in 1848.
Then, somehow, Zaragoza was Mexican and American, this bring us to the next point, Zaragoza was a Chicano.
The Chicanos of the time tried to keep their links to the Mexican side, so they took the most recent event in history and they identified with the hero, Ignacio Zaragoza. That is how the 5 de Mayo became the Mexican identity day.
There are different reasons why 5 de Mayo was easily adopted in the US, but the most powerful one was that France was a common enemy, because of that, Mexicans and Americans strengthen their relationship through this holiday.
In the middle of the 20th century, the Chicano Community started changing the meaning of 5 de Mayo. First it was a Mexican nationalism celebration but then it became in the Bicultural identity festivity that we know today.
We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. Without diversity life would be very boring.Catherine Pulsifer