In Case you Were Wondering about Cinco de Mayo

No, Cinco de Mayo does not mean “beer and tacos” in Spanish.  Nor is it Mexico’s July 4th.

Yahoo has the lowdown for all the gringos in the audience (“Cinco De Mayo, By the Numbers“):

Contrary to popular belief, Cinco De Mayo is not the holiday recognizing Mexico’s independence. Instead, it is a holiday which celebrates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It originally started out as a regional holiday in the state of Puebla and has since gained popularity among Mexican immigrant populations living in the United States as a day for celebrating their cultural heritage and national pride.

Here is a look at interesting numbers and facts behind the increasingly popular Mexican holiday:

May 5, 1862: The day which gave birth to Cinco De Mayo. Mexicans had reason to celebrate after a small force of 4,500 Mexican soldiers crushed the advancing French army at Fort Loreto and Fort Guadalupe after French soldiers had swept through Veracruz and forced Mexican President Benito Juarez to retreat into hiding.

8,000: The number of troops Napoleon III, emperor of France, sent to overthrow the Mexican government after President Juarez suspended foreign debt repayments for two years starting in 1861. Napoleon III had plans to make Mexico part of a new world French Empire. Instead, the French army suffered defeat for the first time in nearly 50 years.

1867: The year Mexican troops finally expelled the French army from Mexico. This represented the last time a European power invaded an independent nation in either North America or South America.

150: According to National Geographic News, more than 150 official celebrations of Cinco De Mayo take place in towns and cities across the United States. Festivities typically include parades, concerts and consumption of large amounts of Mexican food and beverages.

Sept. 16: The date for the actual Mexican Independence Day, commemorating the end of Spanish rule in 1810. Many people outside of Mexico confuse this holiday with Cinco De Mayo, thinking the latter date denotes country’s independence day.

600,000: The approximate number of people who turn out each year for the Festival de Fiesta Broadway. Held in Los Angeles, this is the world’s largest Cinco De Mayo celebration, featuring plenty of food and live music. Other major Cinco De Mayo festivals are held in Denver and St. Paul, Minn. Each of these festivals also draws hundreds of thousands of people.

1948: Although it is popularly connected with Cinco De Mayo, the first margarita was actually concocted in 1948 by Dallas socialite Margarita Sames while she was staying at her vacation home in Acapulco, Mexico. Sames got the idea to mix tequila, ice, lime and sugar together to create a new drink.

185,000: Margaritas are one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in the United States, even outside of Cinco De Mayo celebrations. It is estimated that Americans consume an average of 185,000 margaritas per hour, as reported by the Plain Dealer.

365: Cinco De Mayo is one of 365 celebrations that Mexican citizens or people with Mexican heritage celebrate annually.


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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter