The obscure reality behind Cinco de Mayo might shock you. Yes, you, with the fake mustache, sombrero and poncho. With a Coronita beer in hand, and…wait, is that a tortilla chip with guacamole, too?
We all love excuses to celebrate, have a few drinks, and throw parties…so why not Cinco de Mayo? Quick question, though, do you know why we (Americans) celebrate this holiday? Are you aware of the actual event that took place on this date?
Before we get into the Cinco de Mayo, let’s clear one thing up. It is not, I repeat, it is not Mexico’s Independence Day. Although Americans would very much love celebrating Mexico’s freedom from Spain (because we love celebrating everything), that actually took place in September, 1810, and it’s not something that is celebrated much in the USA except for the Mexican-American communities.
Alright, now, back to Cinco de Mayo.
Well, it was on May 5th, 1862, when the very small Mexican army, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, won a battle in the state of Puebla against the great French army (considered the best world-wide at the time). An unlikely win that certainly deserved to be celebrated throughout the country… even if it was just one battle.
So how come Americans are so enthusiastic about celebrating said date when in reality…it had nothing to do with us?
Cinco de Mayo: La Batalla de Puebla
France took over Mexico as an aftermath of the Mexico-American war and the Reform war – both taking place in the mid-1800s. After Mexico was nearly bankrupt, then President Benito Juarez, advised France, Spain and Britain that they would not be paying foreign debts for the following two years as a result of, well, not having any money. Soon, all three countries sailed to Mexico asking to be paid what they were owed. Mexico succeeded in negotiations with Spain and Britain, who took back to their countries satisfied with the new arrangements. However, France was having none of this, and decided it was a good time to establish an empire in Mexico.
For a long time, Mexico was overtaken (very easily) by the French army. It wasn’t until the French reached the state of Puebla that they encountered an army that was very against being invaded (once more) and stood their ground. The battle took place between 6,000 French men and 2,000 Mexican men. It wasn’t military strategy, but courage, that helped Mexico win this battle on May 5th. This established a sense of patriotism and pride throughout the country which was very much needed at the time.
A few battles later, the French overtook Mexico and established Napoleon III as the new Emperor of Mexico. The United States had been fighting the Civil War, and as soon as it was over, looked over and helped Mexico free itself of the three-year French empire. France was kicked out of Mexico, and Benito Juarez took presidency again in Mexico City in 1967. Hoorah!
News of the great success of the battle of Puebla traveled quickly, eventually reaching Mexican workers living in the USA. It was in Columbia where Mexican miners fired their rifles and chanted songs in celebration about the win over the French army. This is the first ever recorded celebration of Cinco de Mayo in the USA. However, it was mainly ignored elsewhere.
Cinco de Mayo: Fast-Forward to the 1940s.
Chicanos, a widely known community of Mexican-Americans confused about their real identities and nationalities, soon started celebrating Cinco de Mayo, priding themselves in being a part of a country whose significantly smaller army crushed the strongest army at the time. This also boosted the Chicano movement in the USA. However, it wasn’t for another 30 years that Cinco de Mayo became the mainstream celebration we know today. And it was all thanks to marketing.
Cinco de Mayo: The Battle of the Beers (1980s)
Since the 1950s, everything has been about marketing strategies. If you don’t market, you don’t sell. Grupo Modelo, owner of Corona beer, had successful sales all throughout Mexico and was looking to break into international markets. In 1979, it made its way into the USA but flopped with its sales. Rival breweries laughed at its attempts to win over the market. So, Modelo decided to hit where it always work: national pride. Targeting ethnic groups, they decided to exploit the meaning of Mexican pride by promoting their beer through significant Mexican events. In the mid-1980s, it hit the jackpot by increasing its sales and eventually landing in 4th place world-wide, in the beer industry. They rolled out slogans such as “the Drinko for Cinco”, inviting mainly younger audiences – and mainly not Mexican – to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by drinking and partying.
After seeing their success, other breweries started imitating Modelo’s marketing strategies. Once that Cinco de Mayo had been established as a holiday amongst younger generations of both white and Latin communities, marketing became easier for beers, followed eventually by guacamole, chips, tequila, and more.
Here we are, 30 years later, still celebrating a battle that may have been overly insignificant in Napoleon III’s invasion of Mexico. We celebrate something that not even Mexicans celebrate, because beer companies told us to. Because proud Mexican-Americans wanted to sing and dance traditional songs as a celebration of their army.
So, pop those beer bottles open and bring out the guacamole, because today is Cinco de Mayo and we are in the mood to celebrate!
Top Mexico Real Estate is an American-owned company based in the Riviera Maya. We are the leading real estate experts in the region. If you are looking to relocate or retire to Mexico, feel free to contact one of our Top Buyer’s Representatives, who will gladly help you find the home of your dreams (the perfect place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo!). Happy Cinco de Mayo!
And remember, here at Top Mexico Real Estate…
We Make It Happen!