May 5th Cinco de Mayo

Today Mexicans (and Americans) celebrate Cinco de Mayo (often confused with Mexico’s Independence Day, September 16th). Cinco de Mayo celebrates the remebrance of the Battle of Puebla on May 5th. France controlled Mexico in the early 1860’s and Mexico wanted their freedom (they fairly won it at Puebla). It was France’s second intervention in Mexico, but it was also their last. Perhaps a little strange is that Mexico’s battle for freedom occurred on what is today American soil. Puebla is in California near Los Angles. Spain and Britain also went to war with Mexico but came to terms before the battle.

How to celebrate – Study the history of Mexico. Celebrate Mexico’s freedom from foreign interference. Visit the site of the battle.

May 5th Cinco de Mayo Day

Today is a day of celebration in Mexican pride and culture. In fact, it is a celebration for most Hispanic people, celebrating along with Mexico, the rich and colorful songs, dancing, and parties associated with a mixed and exciting heritage.

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For most of Mexico history they have been under the thumb of European countries. Spain obviously ruled Mexico having defeated the Aztec Empire, but it was France that drove the Mexican population to revolt against them, culminating with the Battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862. Independence did not come until September 16th from France but the battle was the beginning of the end.

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Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of that great victory and Mexico’s recognition of being a sovereign state after so many years of repression. Perhaps the strangest part of Cinco de Mayo is that it did not actually start in Mexico! It began in California, then an American territory, when the Mexicans living there heard of the victory over the French. They fired off rifles and fireworks to celebrate, and it quickly spread south to their native land.

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Mexico has a rich and diverse background having been influenced by so many other nationalities. They have always been a colorful people who love dance, song and parties to express how they feel. And they always invite everyone else to share in their good fortune.

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How to celebrate – Throw a party for your Hispanic friends celebrating their place in the world. Visit Mexico and take part in the culture. Dress the part today showing you support Cinco de Mayo.

October 10th Columbus Day

So, Columbus was Italian, sailing for Spain, trying to discover the West Indies but instead found America, looking for spices, but finding chocolate… oh, and by the way, he never actually landed in America and if he had, he would have been at best, second, if not later. And Columbus Day wasn’t originally October 1oth, it was October 12th, the day he didn’t land in America in 1492.

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Think we are confused, you should have been Columbus. He still thought he had landed in the West Indies even after returning to Spain in 1493. Someone eventually told him he would be credited with finding an entire new world and I can only imagine his response…”What new world?” Of course that would have been in Spanish, or Italian, or Latin, or… well you get the point.

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The first celebration of Columbus Day that was recorded came in 1792 when the 300th anniversary was honored at Tammy Hall, a forerunner of the Knights of Columbus. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison suggested that all of the US celebrate the date on the 400th anniversary of the date. He stopped short of proclaiming it a National Holiday.

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It was left to FDR to proclaim Columbus Day as a National Holiday in 1937.  He was pressured by the Knights of Columbus and other Catholic organizations in the US. Of course, back then they didn’t know Columbus never actually discovered America. The date was changed to the second Monday in October, to allow for a three day weekend for federal employees.

So in the end, we celebrate someone who didn’t discover America, wasn’t Spanish, and really was… lost. But I am told he was a nice guy otherwise.

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How to celebrate – Reenact the Columbus landing (it really doesn’t matter where you are or where you land). Make some paper boats and float them in a nearby lake. Call them the Pinta, Nina, and Santa Maria. They may be nearly as good as the originals! Honor a great man trying to do great things.