Cinco De Mayo: Whose Holiday Is It, Anyway? | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Cinco De Mayo: Whose Holiday Is It, Anyway?

Play associated audio

Across the country this weekend, Cinco de Mayo will be celebrated with festivals, music, Mexican food and plenty of bar specials.

But south of the border, the holiday merits little more than a parade in the city of Puebla, east of Mexico City. There, in 1862, outgunned Mexican troops defeated an invading French army.

Lesley Tellez writes about Mexican food and culture for The Mija Chronicles online. She says that when she moved from Southern California to Mexico City, she looked forward to Cinco de Mayo. But she was the only one looking for a party.


Interview Highlights

On her first Cinco de Mayo in Mexico City

I was ... waiting for this groundswell of something to start happening in Mexico City, and nothing ever happened! The day came and the day went.

On the origins of the holiday

It does commemorate the battle of Puebla, in which the Mexican troops were victorious over the French troops, and that's really important — in Puebla. Not really anywhere else outside of Puebla.

Mexico had put a moratorium on paying back their European debts. They basically had no money. The French wanted to get their money from Mexico, so they sent troops and they fought a battle in Puebla versus what was supposed to be a ... vastly underprepared army. ... But the Mexican troops ended up winning the battle ... and it was great. But they didn't end up winning the war, overall. They lost. But at a time, it was really a rallying cry for Mexican resistance.

On Cinco de Mayo in America

There's a couple of different stories. One is that it was homesick Mexicans that were looking for a way to celebrate their heritage. And I've also read that it was Mexicans who were living in the U.S. and wanting to identify with Mexico around the time of the [Mexican] Civil War and wanting to support what had happened in Mexico.

On making peace with Cinco de Mayo

I really view it today as a Mexican-American holiday, even though, yeah, you know, it is tied to beer and margaritas a lot of the time. I do think you could use it as a point of reflection about your own identity as a Mexican-American person. Thinking about contributions Mexican-Americans have made to the U.S., our food, really reveling in what our culture brings to the table in the U.S. I think it is a great day to do that.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

No Demons, No Angels: Attica Locke Aims For Black Characters Who Are Human

In her new novel, Pleasantville, and on TV's Empire, Locke does her best to avoid simple stories. "You do some good stuff and you do some bad stuff," she says. "... We exist in the middle."
NPR

When Danish Cows See Fresh Spring Pasture, They Jump For Joy

Thousands of spectators gather every April to see ecstatic cows return to fields on organic farms around Denmark. The organic industry says the event has helped fuel demand for organic foods.
NPR

Proposed Retirement Advice Rule Has Worrisome Loopholes, Experts Say

The Department of Labor has crafted a proposed rule to better protect Americans saving for retirement. But questions are already being raised about how effective the new rule will be.
NPR

Solar Power Makes Electricity More Accessible On Navajo Reservation

The panels, funded by government grants, are helping thousands of tribal residents take advantage of the everyday luxuries enjoyed by other Americans — like turning on lights or storing food.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.