There are of course a bunch of Mexican patriotic holidays that come around every year. But that’s caught on most outside Mexico is Cinco de Mayo – especially in the next-door United States, most notably out on the West Coast, but really, pretty much wherever there’s a taco/burrito/ chimichanga emporium (I mean, when you’ve reached Omaha…). As with St. Patrick’s Day, for many CDM has had its origins obscured and become just another excuse for carousing, so I’d like to take a moment to remind everyone what in fact is behind this momentous occasion whose name is nothing more than the Spanish for “the fifth of May.”
When in 1861 the Mexican republic’s iconic president Benito Juárez declared a two-year stop-payment on debts to European creditors, the relevant countries actually sent warships to collect (yeah, it was a slightly different time). One of them, France under Napoleon III, decided to go one further by trying to set up a pro-French empire in Mexico. So the hotshot French army landed and took Veracruz but then, amazingly, got its cul kicked by a Mexican force just half its size near Puebla. This Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla was naturally a big-time boost for the young country’s national unity and patriotism.
And though in 1864 France finally got its wish and installed Austrian Habsburg Archduke Maximilian as “emperor,” in spite of actually instituting some pretty humane reforms, just three years later Max ended up getting deposed and put in front of a firing squad, and good ol’ Benito was back in the saddle again.
Ironically, these days Cinco de Mayo festivities are actually more widespread in the States and elsewhere than in Mexico itself, where it’s most touted in and around Puebla and in some of the border areas and tourism centers (such as Cancun, the Riviera Maya, and Cozumel, where Iberostar has its Mexico resorts). But regardless, as a celebration of Mexican pride, bravery, and overcoming overwhelming odds, this one’s totally a keeper.
Photo | iStock/Kelly Richardson Photography
If you plan to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Mexico next year, you should stay at one of the Iberostar Hotels!