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April 30, 2008 > Cinco de Mayo celebrations

Cinco de Mayo celebrations

By Brittney Hansen

Cinco de Mayo, translated as the "Fifth of May" in English, is a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. A common misconception in the United States is that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's 'Independence Day,' when in fact it is not. Mexico's Independence Day is actually Sept. 16, when Mexico declared its independence from Spain, first proclaimed in 1810. Even though Mexico had declared its independence, there were still battles and skirmishes 50 years later. In 1862, the Mexican army of around four thousand soldiers battled with the much bigger French army in Puebla, Mexico. On May 5, they were victorious, and have commemorated that day ever since.

The Mexicans won that battle, but the French army won the war, and in 1864 a European emperor was put on the Mexican throne; but only reigned for three years before he was killed. Even during this time, Mexicans celebrated Cinco de Mayo.

Though the battle at Puebla was militarily insignificant, to the people it marked a great triumph against incredible odds. Puebla's name was changed to Puebla de Zaragoza, after the general who led the victorious Mexican forces. The unlikely win united the people of Mexico and gave them hope for a free Mexico.

Interestingly enough, it is not only Mexicans who celebrate Cinco de Mayo. If the Mexican army had been defeated on May 5, the French might have acquired additional land. The course of history might have followed a different path and United States territory divided differently. Life may have been very different for Americans and Mexicans alike. It is for this reason that, along with the Spanish, many diverse ethnicities celebrate Cinco de Mayo,

Every year, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated with food and festivals, drink and dancing. Mexican flags appear everywhere, and red, white and green decorations are evident everywhere you turn. Festivities in years past have included carnivals and authentically-dressed performers dancing to patriotic songs. Mariachi bands play Mexican tunes, and children dress up in traditional costumes.

To celebrate Cinco de Mayo this year, visit your favorite local Mexican restaurant or attend a special event for this unique holiday. The Silliman Center in Newark is hosting a free Cinco de Mayo party on Monday, May 5, in which teens can have fun swinging at pi–atas, enjoying Mexican snacks and learning how to make guacamole. La Alianza de Hayward (The Alliance of Hayward) is celebrating Cinco de Mayo on Saturday, May 3, with mariachi bands, dancing and other performances, as well as plenty of games, contests, activities, and of course delicious food.

Cinco de Mayo celebrations:

La Alianza de Hayward Cinco de Mayo Celebration
Saturday, May 3
10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Hayward City Hall Plaza
777 B St., Hayward
(510) 732-2746

Cinco de Mayo Party
Monday, May 5
4 - 5 p.m.
Silliman Center Teen Area
6800 Mowry Ave., Newark
(510) 742-4700

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