Within a year, however, the French had sent 30,000 more troops and successfully conquered Mexico. But only three years after that, Mexico defeated the French and reclaimed its sovereignty, with the aid of the U.S., who had emerged from the Civil War with a stronger military than ever before.
But all 19th century history aside, what may be most shocking of all about Cinco de Mayo – the one day of the year when everyone, even Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, wants to be Mexicano – is that it is hardly celebrated south of the border. Except for in the state of Puebla, where the victory occurred, and in a few larger Mexican cities, most of the hype surrounding the day is of U.S. origin. Since the first improvised celebration in California, Cinco de Mayo has entered mainstream consciousness here as Latino communities have increased their numbers and influence nationally.
Cali is still the place to be if you want roll in the holiday with a bang. Los Angeles’s annual Fiesta Broadway, dubbed “the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the world,” attracts a crowd of 500,000 to 12 square blocks of downtown L.A. and has played host to such legendary musicians as Tito Puente, Selena and Celia Cruz.
Meanwhile, in Puebla and Mexico City, crowds turn out to watch or participate in battle reenactments. Women wear colorful dresses, while men are decked out in historical military costumes and carry antique rifles. Those dressed as French soldiers often carry knapsacks with wine bottles poking out
Although the day is increasingly celebrated by heavy drinking in both countries, Cinco de Mayo has also long symbolized both national pride and the triumph of the people over foreign occupation. And while the celebrations may be more subdued in Mexico (or just plain hard to find at all), for many Cinco de Mayo has become a welcome opportunity to celebrate Latino culture.
Image credit- istockphoto.com/raclro