If you didn't grow up in the Southwest or California, you may not have even heard of Cinco de Mayo in your earliest years. But the holiday has taken on a life of its own. It's a day to celebrate Mexican pride in the United States, and, much like St. Patrick's Day and Oktoberfest, you don't have to share the heritage to celebrate. But if you're going to party, you should at least know what you're drinking to! Here are five facts to know about Cinco de Mayo.
- It's not Independence Day: Independence Day is Sept. 16; May 5 celebrates the day Mexico defeated the French in 1862. Bankrupt after the Mexican-American War, Mexico's president stopped paying a debt owed to France. Napoleon III demanded payment by invading Mexico, but was stopped by an ill-equipped Mexican army in the town of Puebla.
- It's more popular in America than Mexico: Cinco de Mayo is a regional holiday in Mexico. It's celebrated mainly in the state of Puebla and virtually ignored in the rest of the country. It's most popular in the US, where it honors Mexican heritage and pride.
- But only since 1967: It was rarely celebrated in the US until 1967 when students at California State University realized no holidays celebrated Mexican heritage. It was then the Cinco de Mayo of margaritas, guacamole, and tacos we know was born.
- Mexico's victory helped the US: Napoleon III had been helping Confederate rebels during the Civil War by providing supplies, but he no longer had access to the US after France's defeat.
- Its popularity may have peaked: With fewer Mexicans immigrating to the US, demographers say Cinco de Mayo's popularity may be on the decline.