Cinco de Mayo: Celebrate Mexican culture and say ‘Ole!’ for the fifth of May

Kids dressed in Mexican traditional dress, outside

Kids at a Cinco de Mayo festival in Texas. Photo by Memorial Student Center Texas A&M University, courtesy of Flickr

FRIDAY, MAY 5: Warm the tortillas and smell the tantalizing aromas of a sizzling Mexican kitchen—it’s Cinco de Mayo!

Today, Mexican culture resonates around the world: The American President officially declares the holiday; Canadians hold street festivals; Australians put on a cultural fest and Brits celebrate with a toast to Mexico. Cinco de Mayo is an occasion to revel in Mexican food, culture, dance and music. Many American schools and communities hold Mexican educational events, and iconic Mexican symbols—including the Virgin of Guadalupe—are displayed. May 5 is also celebrated throughout the state of Puebla, in Mexico, though ironically, global recognition of the Mexican nation on this day didn’t start in Mexico: it started in the United States, where Americans of Mexican origin were commemorating a Mexican victory in the Battle of Puebla, of 1862.

Spanish for the fifth of May, Cinco de Mayo recalls the Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. A true underdog story, Mexico was exhausted and in debt from years of fighting when its poorly equipped, outnumbered militia took on the well-outfitted, larger French army that hadn’t been defeated in decades—and won.

Though the win was fairly short-lived, it nonetheless gave Mexico’s army and people a much-needed sense of national pride that is still remembered today. Since the first local Cinco de Mayo parties hosted by Mexicans mining in California, the holiday has expanded internationally.

THE BATTLE OF PUEBLA: A BOOST IN NATIONAL SPIRIT

Fish tacos on blue plate

Mexican seafood tacos. Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

Decades before the Battle of Puebla, Mexico was at a tumultuous time in its history. After gaining independence from Spain in 1821, internal political takeovers ravaged the nation. The Mexican-American War took place from 1846-1848, and one decade later, the Mexican Civil War left the country in financial ruins. Deeply indebted to several countries, Mexico was left with no means for immediate repayment—and, as a result, France’s desire for expansion was fueled.

When Mexico stopped paying on its loans to France, the French installed Archduke Maximilian of Austria, a relative of Napoleon III, as ruler of Mexico. French forces invaded Mexico and began marching toward Mexico City, until Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin and his small militia stopped and defeated the famed French army at Puebla. Though victory was short-lived, and Napoleon soon sent additional military forces to Mexico, the Battle of Puebla had boosted the national spirit.

CINCO DE MAYO: THEN & NOW

In the United States, Mexican miners living in California fired shots and fireworks upon hearing news of the Battle of Puebla in 1862, and the holiday has been celebrated in California ever since. When the Chicano movement crossed America, Cinco de Mayo awareness grew. By the 1980s, marketers began capitalizing on the holiday and Cinco de Mayo gained national popularity. Today, many countries of the world celebrate Mexican culture on the 5th of May.

RECIPES & MORE

Hints of lime, fresh salsa and warm tortillas bring the tastebuds to Mexico like little else, so this Cinco de Mayo, cook up some south-of-the-border cuisine!

Find an array of delicious recipes from Food Network and Taste of Home.

Those hosting a party can find decoration ideas, food suggestions and more from Martha Stewart.

Vegetarian? Try this compilation of recipes.

Cinco de Mayo: Say ‘Ole!’ and celebrate Mexican culture

Tacos, limes, salsa, Mexican food

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

THURSDAY, MAY 5: Crunch into a crispy tostada and smell the tantalizing aromas of a sizzling Mexican kitchen—it’s Cinco de Mayo! For one day, Mexican culture resonates around the world: The American President officially declares the holiday; Canadians hold street festivals; Australians put on a cultural fest and Brits celebrate with a toast to Mexico. Ironically, this global recognition of the Mexican nation didn’t start in Mexico: It started in the United States, where Americans of Mexican origin were commemorating a Mexican victory in the Battle of Puebla of 1862.

Spanish for the fifth of May, Cinco de Mayo recalls the Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. In a true underdog story, Mexico was exhausted and in debt from years of fighting when its poorly equipped, outnumbered militia took on the well-outfitted, larger French army that hadn’t been defeated in decades—and won. Though the win was fairly short-lived, it nonetheless gave Mexico’s army and people a much-needed sense of national pride that is still remembered today. Since the first local Cinco de Mayo parties hosted by Mexicans mining in California, the holiday has expanded internationally.

Today, across the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, England and France, Cinco de Mayo is an occasion to revel in Mexican food, culture, dance and music. Many American schools and communities hold Mexican educational events, and iconic Mexican symbols—including the Virgin of Guadalupe—are displayed. May 5 is also celebrated throughout the state of Puebla, in Mexico.

RECIPES & MORE

Of course, what is Cinco de Mayo without some tantalizing Mexican recipes?

Try a few suggestions from Food Network, the Huffington Post and Fox News.

Those hosting a party can find decoration ideas, food suggestions and more from Martha Stewart.

Vegetarian? Try this compilation of recipes.

 

Cinco de Mayo: Savor the spirit of Mexico on the 5th of May

Three girls in fancy red Mexican dresses and hairdos

Cinco de Mayo parade dancers in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Obie Fernandez, courtesy of Flickr

TUESDAY, MAY 5: Cue the mariachi music and serve the tortillas—it’s Cinco de Mayo!

Spanish for the fifth of May, Cinco de Mayo recalls the Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. A true underdog story, Mexico was exhausted and in debt from years of fighting when its poorly equipped, outnumbered militia took on the well-outfitted, larger French army that hadn’t been defeated in decades—and won. Though the win was fairly short-lived, it nonetheless gave Mexico’s army and people a much-needed sense of national pride that is still remembered today. Since the first local Cinco de Mayo parties hosted by Mexicans mining in California, the holiday has expanded internationally. In the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, England and France, Cinco de Mayo is an occasion to revel in Mexican food, culture, dance and music.

PUEBLA: AN UNLIKELY VICTORY

Decades before the Battle of Puebla, Mexico was at a tumultuous time in its history. After gaining independence from Spain in 1821, internal political takeovers ravaged the nation. The Mexican-American War took place from 1846-1848, and one decade later, the Mexican Civil War left the country in financial ruins. (Learn more from History.com.) Deeply indebted to several countries, Mexico was left with no means for immediate repayment—and, as a result, France’s desire for expansion was fueled.

When Mexico stopped paying on its loans to France, the French installed Archduke Maximilian of Austria, a relative of Napoleon III, as ruler of Mexico. (Wikipedia has details.) French forces invaded Mexico and began marching toward Mexico City, until Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin and his small militia stopped and defeated the famed French army at Puebla. Though victory was short-lived, and Napoleon soon sent additional military forces to Mexico, the Battle of Puebla had boosted the national spirit.

CINCO DE MAYO:
FROM LOCAL TO INTERNATIONAL

While Cinco de Mayo is not marked with vigor throughout all of Mexico, the holiday is prominent in the state of Puebla. In the United States, Mexican miners living in California fired shots and fireworks upon hearing news of the Battle of Puebla in 1862, and the holiday has been celebrated in California ever since. When the Chicano movement crossed America, Cinco de Mayo awareness grew. By the 1980s, marketers began capitalizing on the holiday and Cinco de Mayo gained national popularity. Today, many countries of the world celebrate Mexican culture on the 5th of May.

Open-face soft corn tortillas filled with shredded pork, tomatoes and cilantro

Mexican carnitas. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

RECIPES, FREE TACO BELL & MORE

Hints of lime, fresh salsa and warm tortillas bring the tastebuds to Mexico like little else, so this Cinco de Mayo, cook up some south-of-the-border cuisine!

Find an array of delicious recipes from Food Network and Taste of Home.

Those hosting a party can find decoration ideas, food suggestions and more from Martha Stewart and HGTV.

Vegetarian? Try this compilation of recipes.

Before those Cinco de Mayo parties get underway, Taco Bell is offering free biscuit tacos to all patrons between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. on May 5. (Read more here.) The biscuit tacos, part of Taco Bell’s new breakfast menu, are biscuits molded into taco shapes and filled with eggs, cheese and bacon or sausage.

It’s Spring! Enjoy these nationwide themes at work and home!

Field of yellow flowers beneath blue sky with some white clouds

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

APRIL and MAY 2015—Spring is in full swing as April and May unfold, bringing a rainbow of colors with flowers in the fields, in parks and in gardens everywhere. Till some soil and showcase the beauty of nature, because Earth Day and Arbor Day are both in April. Encourage conservation during National Park Week (April 18-26), and then welcome spring at its fullest on May Day.

If you’re stuck inside, days at the office are more fun by observing the Administrative Professionals Day in April, which may sound awkward, but your office will be a happier place if you remember it! There’s a lot of action at work this spring with Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, too. After work, spend some quality time with the family—May is National Family Month.

With warm weather and spring in the air, get outside and get active, as May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. Surprise Mom with some flowers on May 10, for the American Mother’s Day, and remember the fallen on Memorial Day.

Also, bring awareness of Jewish American heritage and Asian/Pacific American heritage, as both will highlighted. Don’t forget about Mexican heritage, too—May 5 is Cinco de Mayo!

The month of April raises awareness of autism, and May brings Arthritis Awareness, Asthma Awareness and National Stroke Awareness Month. May is also Older Americans Month, so pay special attention to the older persons in your life—and learn more about the public issues that concern them. Eager to get outside and grill? May is National Barbecue Month and National Hamburger Month, so dust off those grills and fire ‘em up.

Check out these highlights …

APRIL: EARTH DAY

Flat view of countries and oceans, world

Photo in public domain

Examine your daily impact on the environment—and what you can do to improve your carbon footprint—on Earth Day, an annual event that encourages all of us to understand environmental issues and take action. The first Earth Day launched in 1970, following a UNESCO Conference and fueled, in part, by the aftermath of a massive oil spill near the coast of California. An environmental teach-in drew 20 million participants nationwide and focused efforts within the United States. Since its fledgling beginnings, Earth Day has grown exponentially in global efforts, and now reaches close to 200 countries. This year, on the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, the theme “It’s our turn to lead” brings grassroots to the forefront and encourages every world citizen to lead by example.

Make a difference! The year 2015 has been named the International Year of Soils by the United Nations. By composting your old fruit and vegetable peels, you can create rich soil—instead of letting the peels decompose in landfills where, without oxygen, they create methane. (Get a how-to here.) Methane has 23 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

MAY: CINCO DE MAYO

Soft tacos on plate topped with fresh lettuce, onions, tomatoes and other fixings

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Each year on May 5, citizens of the U.S., Mexico and beyond celebrate Cinco de Mayo, the anniversary of the 1862 Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla. May 5 often is mistaken for Mexico’s Independence Day. But, Cinco de Mayo is a big celebration of Mexican culture, history and cuisine around the world. What began as a small celebration by Mexicans in California, excited by news of the victory in 1862, has been observed in California ever since. In the 1940s, the Chicano movement fueled national celebration of the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, and Cinco de Mayo soon became a national commemoration for Mexican culture. On June 7, 2005, Congress issued a resolution calling on the President of the United States to issue a proclamation for the American people to observe Cinco de Mayo. Today, Mexican heritage is on display in schools, restaurants, public buildings and more worldwide.

Hungry for some authentic Mexican recipes? Find ideas at Food Network, Food & Wine and AllRecipes.

Young woman, fit, with weights in her hands and bending down

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MAY: PHYSICAL FITNESS AND SPORTS 

There’s no better time to get out and get active! Spring weather is rolling across the Northern Hemisphere, and May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. Only 1 in 5 adults gets enough physical activity to see substantial health benefits, according to national reports. And those benefits are important: a lowered risk of heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes and some types of cancer are among a few. Studies also show that children who get enough exercise perform better in school, and fit older adults experience fewer falls and generally have better mental functioning. Spread awareness of the importance of physical fitness by holding a community event, Tweeting about the cause or writing about sports and health in a newsletter or on a blog. Aim to get 60 minutes of exercise per day, by walking, bike riding or using an outdoor community play area. Consider exercising during part of a lunch break at work.

Having trouble getting your family outdoors? Become part of UofM Dr. Wayne Baker’s campaign #OurKidsEarth

Learn more by visiting HealthFinder.gov and CDC.gov.

MAY: OLDER AMERICANS MONTH

Older couple in hammock, smiling, man kissing woman on cheek

Photo by Patrick, courtesy of Flickr

The Administration for Community Living urges Americans to set aside time each May to observe Older Americans Month. In recognition of the contributions that seniors have made to their country, Older Americans Month promotes health and longevity of these important citizens through awareness programs, campaigns and more. This year, on the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act, the theme is Get into the Act. Older Americans are being urged to engage in their communities through volunteering, mentoring and more. By highlighting issues like elder abuse and promoting healthy aging, and establishing programs that properly address the needs of older adults, the Administration for Community Living hopes to create a better quality of living for all older Americans.

Cinco de Mayo: Celebrating Mexican courage, culture, cuisine and Our Lady of Guadalupe, too

SUNDAY, MAY 5: Ole!

An hispanic young woman wearing a colorful traditional dress dancing in street festival

A Cinco de Mayo dancer in a festival organized by Columbia University. Photo in public domain

Bring out the salsa verde and turn up the Latin music! It’s Cinco de Mayo. For one day, Mexican culture resonates around the world: The American President officially declares the holiday; Canadians hold street festivals; Australians put on a cultural fest and Brits celebrate with a toast to Mexico. (Wikipedia has details.) Ironically, this global recognition of the Mexican nation didn’t start in Mexico. It started in the United States, where Americans of Mexican origin were commemorating a Mexican victory in the Battle of Puebla of 1862.

That era in Latin American history is complex, but basically involved European imperial powers seeking to take over Mexico. The force that landed in 1862 and waged war for five years was French. Other European powers assumed that the French would conquer Mexico with little resistance. The Battle of Puebla—on May 5, 1862—certainly did not win the war for the Mexicans. Nevertheless, the Mexican victory was celebrated as demonstrating the people’s courage and ability to defeat one of Europe’s most powerful armies. (Learn more at History.com.)

May 5 is still celebrated throughout the state of Puebla, in Mexico, and most widely in the United States. Many American schools and communities hold Mexican educational events, and iconic Mexican symbols—including the Virgin of Guadalupe—are displayed.

CINCO DE MAYO: LOOKING FOR TASTY MEXICAN RECIPES?

Of course, what is Cinco de Mayo without some tantalizing Mexican recipes? Try a few suggestions from Food Network, the Huffington Post and Fox News. For kids, Kaboose has Cinco crafts and activities.

This year’s yummiest Cinco de Mayo food story, though, comes from the Smithsonian Magazine. Given the Smithsonian’s interest in cultural authenticity, the magazine story reports: “What America’s Cinco de Mayo misses is the traditional food of Mexico, named to the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, a recognition given to only one other cuisine (French). … What makes traditional Mexican fare worthy of such a distinction? You won’t find cumin-soaked ground beef in hard shell tacos topped with iceberg and cheddar. But, you will find beef barbacoa that has been smoked underground in banana leaves or carnitas topped with queso fresco, pickled onions and homemade salsa verde wrapped in a warm homemade corn tortilla that has been ever so lightly heated on a comal.”

Read the entire Smithsonian story, complete with a half dozen tasty—and authentic—recipes!

(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion, values and cultural diversity.)