Cinco de Mayo around the corner

Natalie Hanassab

With the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo only two weeks away, many people, including Mexican-Americans themselves, have misunderstood what this day is all about.The fifth of May does not mark Mexican Independence Day as some think. In fact, Mexico declared their independence from Spain Sept. 15, 1810.In actuality, Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico’s victory against the French in the Battle of Puebla May 5, 1862, when they defeated 8,000 French soldiers under the command of Col. Porfirio Diaz.The French army wanted to attack Mexico City over money disputes, when France wanted to collect from the newly elected President Benito Juarez. When plans did not go into effect, they battled.There may be a few explanations to why many are confused or clueless about the holiday. It may be because of the low interest in learning about it, or the fact that many teachers do not cover it in their classes.Professor Richard McMillan, a Latin American history teacher at Pierce College, explained why Americans do not really know the truth about Cinco de Mayo. They heard about it from others and assumed that they were correct.”As Americans, anything that is good we adopt,” he said.McMillan also jokingly explained his reasoning for the mix-up of Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day.”It’s probably because Cinco de Mayo has the same number of syllables as Fourth of July,” he said.According to McMillan, 1.8 to 2 million Mexicans did flee the revolution between 1910-1920. Although, this is a big reason of what’s been confused with Cinco de Mayo.English Professor David Gonzales, a second-generation Mexican-American, does not celebrate the holiday, but is very familiar with the history and customs.His opinion highlights another significant aspect of the holiday: the commercial aspect.”Cinco de Mayo is celebrated with a lot of pride and culture mainly in Mexico,” Gonzalez explained,” “but in America, it has mostly become a commodity and very commercial by people who are trying to make money off of it.”The importance of the awareness of Cinco de Mayo is explained by sophomore and political science major Andrew Lee. He said that the holiday is not emphasized in history lessons.”Every occurrence in history leads to another significant outcome,” Lee said. “We need to better understand the past to help us with our future.”Mexicans, including those in America, throw grand celebrations in honor of Cinco de Mayo, including such traditions as live mariachi bands, fresh food, dancing in the street and a whole lot of drinking.Freshman Oscar Rios knew the background of the holiday, and said our country needs to know what is behind the celebration and should come up with ways to raise that awareness.”The media should really get involved with it because Americans watch a lot of television and enjoyed being entertained,” Rios said.With McMillan, who happens to teach “a good slice of it” in his class, Americans can be off to a familiar start.