It’s not just about margaritas and mariachi music.
Nor does it have anything to do with Mexican Independence Day.
Cinco de Mayo, a holiday celebrated this weekend in both the United States and Mexico, is actually in memory of the Mexican Army’s 1862 victory over the French.
“People need to look beyond eating tacos and drinking shots of tequila,” said John Hernandez, a local Mexican American and chairman of the counseling department at Spokane Falls Community College.
In recent years, however, the holiday has lost its meaning.
Most Americans don’t even know what Cinco de Mayo’s about, many Latinos say.
“(The holiday) shows us the self-determination of a community,” said Carlos Maldonado, chairman of Eastern Washington University’s Chicano Studies Program. “It’s about activism and sovereignty.”
On May 5, 1862, 5,000 Mexicans - outgunned and outnumbered - defeated the French army in the town of Puebla. Known to historians as the Batalla de Puebla, the battle was over in half a day.
It later became a symbol of Mexican unity and patriotism, Maldonado said.
It’s a “David slew Goliath” kind of story, Hernandez said - the underdog beating the odds. It’s an idea that many Americans can relate to, he said.
In fact, it’s more widely celebrated in the United States than it is in Mexico.
“As people immigrated to the United States, there was a need to celebrate our history and culture,” he said. That’s why holidays like Cinco de Mayo became more prominent to the Latino communities in the United States.
“What we do goes beyond the fiesta and music,” Maldonado said. “It is important that this celebration be founded on important messages such as activism and development that are relevant to the community.” , DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: EVENTS Today - Juan Jose Gutierrez, who helps immigrants in the Los Angeles area, will talk about immigration policies and reform, 11 a.m. at Eastern Washington University’s Pence Union Building. Saturday - 19th annual Cinco de Mayo banquet and celebration, 5 p.m. at EWU’s PUB Multi-Purpose Room. The cost is $23 for the banquet and dance, or $10 for dance admission only. For more information, call the Chicano Education Program at 359-2404. Monday - Jose Garcia, known as the “Lone Mariachi,” performs traditional Mexican music and dance, 11:30 a.m. in SFCC’s Student Union Building. John Hernandez also will talk about Cinco de Mayo’s significance. “What Does It Mean to Be Chicana?,” an audiovisual presentation by students Janell Olson-Trevino and Tommi Dumaw, 10:30 a.m. in Spokane Community College’s Lair-Student Center Auditorium. “La Tradicione,” a band, will play Latino music at 11:30 a.m. followed by pinata games for kids at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday - “Hispanic Women Speak,” historic portraits of notable Hispanic women presented by author and actress Elaine Partnow, 11:30 a.m. in SFCC’s Student Union Building. All next week - “Mexicanos in Spokane County,” a photo exhibit at EWU’s Pence Union Building.