Just who owns Cinco de Mayo?

LatinaLista — Cinco de Mayo may be rooted in Mexican history — it commemorates the 1862 underdog victory of the Mexican army’s defeat of the well-armed French forces occupying the country — but it’s totally an American-made celebration.

3505069806_e28070d32f_m.jpgIn fact it’s related to one of the United States most revered moments in history, the American Civil War. It is said that the celebration sprang up spontaneously among Mexicans and Latinos living in California who wanted to show support for the cause of defending freedom and democracy during the early stages of the Civil War.

(Photo: Flckr Commons: Bisayan Lady)

Long before social media and the term “viral” were terms accepted in Merriam-Webster, news of the Cinco de Mayo observance spread from California throughout the southwest where large communities of Mexicans had forged roots sparking celebrations wherever Mexican-Americans lived.

Over the years, the background of Cinco de Mayo has only been loosely known — “It’s from Mexico” — and mostly wrong — “It’s Mexican Independence.” (There is only one spot in Mexico that celebrates the observance. It’s the state of Puebla, where the battle took place. The national holiday of independence is celebrated on Sept. 16 and everyone celebrates it.)

But the history of the observance has taken a backseat to the marketing efforts that pushed the celebration as a day, and night, of non-stop partying. In that regard, Cinco de Mayo has been embraced by all Americans to come out and enjoy traditional Mexican food and drink.

Yet, Cinco de Mayo really should be embraced by all Americans because while it might have its roots in a Mexican battle where a ragtag army of Mexican soldiers proved critics wrong in defeating an army twice its size, the observance itself symbolizes how ingenuity, perseverance and a strong belief in the ideals of freedom and self-rule are universal traits that every country can claim as its own — and should celebrate with gusto!

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