International Observance: Celebrate Mexico on Cinco

WEDNESDAY, MAY 5 (or earlier in some places): Dip into some fresh salsa and sip a cool margarita (find recipes here)—for Cinco de Mayo! In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is a regional holiday, observed mainly in the state of Puebla to celebrate the Mexican army’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 (discover more about Mexico from The History Channel). But in the U.S., Americans are known for celebrating with vigor! (Read more at Wikipedia.) Festivities often are associated with Mexican food, music and culture. (Kids can participate, too, with fun ideas from Kaboose.) Some American schools mark Cinco de Mayo to teach students about Mexican history, and cultural festivals are held across the country.

Religion has been a significant aspect of Mexican history, and today, almost 90 percent of the country’s population is Catholic. Before Christianity came to Mexico after 1492, religious traditions were a mixture of Mayan, Toltec and Aztec cultures. Ancient Mexicans studied astronomy and mathematics as part of their religion, to predict events and dates. When the Spanish came to Mexico, Catholicism came, too, and some of Mexico’s modern-day belief systems are comprised of a mixture of ancient beliefs and Catholic concepts.

According to recent surveys, Mexico has the world’s largest number of Catholics, after Brazil. Our Lady of Guadalupe, a popular pilgrimage site in Mexico, is housed in what is now Mexico City. Devotees hold that, in 1531 CE, the Virgin Mary appeared and left her image on a piece of woven fabric. Since many believe that the Virgin Mary announced that she was also the goddess of the ancient Mexican religion, this fabric represents the unique blending of Mexico’s ancestral religion and Catholicism. (For more about Guadalupe, plus helpful links to explore even further, see this column from December.)

And, here’s an important note if you want to attend celebrations! Check local listings in your part of the U.S. Because May 5 is a Wednesday this year, organizers are looking at the weekends before and after the 5th. The biggest celebration in the American Southwest is the Phoenix Cinco de Mayo festival that draws more than 200,000 people, according to the Arizona Republic newspaper. That sprawling festival takes place May 1 and 2 this year!

(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)

(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)

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