Ola, What Exactly Is the Cinco de Mayo

This Cinco de Mayo stamp was issued by the United States Post Office in 2005
This Cinco de Mayo stamp was issued by the United States Post Office in 2005

The Fifth of May Explained

The Cinco of May is nothing but a Spanish expression for the fifth of May; the date, when a famous battle took place in Old Mexico. The year was 1862 and the place was the Colonial town of Puebla. Though outnumbered two-to-one the Mexican army defeated the French regulars lead by General Lorencez. At the time the US was involved in a bitter Civil War and so they were unable to take sides in the conflict.

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Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican army’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862

French Intervention In Mexico

During the 19th century the French made two attempts at colonizing Mexico. The first was called the Pastry War and it occurred in 1838. The second begain in 1862 and for five long years. This invasion was known as the Maximilian Affair.

After thie Fifth of May defeat at Puebla, the French retreated to the Gulf Coast at Veracruz. Here, they regrouped and then were able to dominate Mexican affairs until 1866, when the Mexican militia forced the European occupiers to begin their departure. In 1867, the Mexicans took back Mexico City and executed the French Emperor of Mexico, an unpopular fellow by the name of Maximilian. This stormy period of Mexican history underscores the difficult struggle that Mexicans faced, not only with Spain, but other countries as well.

 

Cinco de Mayo poster in the US
Cinco de Mayo poster in the US

An American Holiday

If you want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo…..don’t go South of the Border……. There’s nothing going on. To really get in the swing of things on the fifth of May, you’ll have to cross the Rio Bravo (for all you gringos that’s the Rio Grande) and visit an appropriate U.S. city or state. Go to the right place and you will see a parade and maybe some bar specials promoting liquid refreshments from our southern neighbor. Cinco de Mayo in the United States has been a time for Mexican-Americans to public celebrate their heritage.

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Happy Mardi Gras

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Karneval in Rom
painting by Johannes Lingelbach (1622–1674)

Meaning of Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras literally means Fat Tuesday, though many Latin countries know the popular holiday as Carnival. No matter how you look at it, Mardi Gras is the day before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. It is usually looked on as a time of celebration and revelry that occurs just before the Lenten season commences.

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Mardi Gras Day, New Orleans: Krewe of Kosmic Debris revelers on Frenchmen Street 2009, from Wikipedia, photo by Infrogmation of New Orleans

Mardi Gras Remembered

During the 80’s I resided in New Orleans and enjoyed every Carnival season, while I was there. Mardi Gras Day in the French Quarter was definitely a lot of fun, but celebrations occurred all over the metropolitan area. Except for the downtown madness, most of the celebration consisted of families coming out to view the parades. In fact, some of the best parades, such as Bacchus occurred at night on the weekends preceding the popular holiday. And of course the best way to view the festivities was with a group of friends, where you could form your own Krewe similar to the one pictured above.

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The Tulum archaeological site (Mayan) in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, from Wikipedia, photo by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

Ash Wednesday In Old Mexico

The religious holiday of Ash Wednesday follows Mardi Gras. In many places, it is time of sober reflection and attending church services. The first carnival season that I ever experienced was on a  Caribbean island located along the Yucatan coast of Mexico. I have put my rather bizarre experiences into a novella, titled Ash Wednesday In Old Mexico. Just click on the title and you will be redirected to the Amazon page, where it will be offered free for tomorrow, which is also Ash Wednesday.