Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoȋt Nadeau, authors of The Story of Spanish, point out that Cinco de Mayo No Hecho en México, Actually
Cinco is as American as apple pie. So is the U.S. Hispanic melting pot.
Exactly how Cinco de Mayo turned into the signature celebration of the United States’ 52 million Hispanics is a bit of a mystery—especially since it is hardly celebrated in Mexico outside of the State of Puebla. Cinco de Mayo has no association with Mexican independence. It commemorates a battle on May 5, 1862, in which the Mexican army vanquished the well-equipped French forces of Napoleon III.
No one knows exactly why Hispanics in California began celebrating Cinco de Mayo at the end of the 1860s.
It was a good excuse for a party?
What we do know is that in the 1970s cultural organizers in San Francisco selected Cinco de Mayo from among a slate of holidays as the best pan-national Latino celebration in the U.S. It was a savvy choice. Most Mexicans had never heard of the holiday, so it didn’t carry the risk of pitting different Hispanic nationalities against one another.
I had never heard of cinco de mayo until quite recently, either. Neither had several friends and acquaintances from Latin America, who found out about it once they moved to the USA.
What does The Most Interesting Man in the World have to say about this?
Buy the book, drink the beer. Skol!
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[post updated with info on TMIMitW]