With Latin salsa music playing softly in the background and with my hips and shoulders gyrating as I sit here writing, I regret to inform you that Dieciséis de Septiembre, not Cinco de Mayo, is the most important Mexican holiday. Perhaps you already knew this.
Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) commemorates the day-long Battle of Puebla and the Mexican army's defeat of the French army. The French re-assumed control of the country the next year, and remained in power for three more years.
Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated in California each year since 1863, is observed in other foreign countries as well, but in Mexico, celebrations are found mainly in the state of Puebla. In France, the celebration of Cinco de Mayo, if it happens at all, is a complete irony. The 4,000 man Mexican army defeated 8,000 well equipped French soldiers. So put away that cilantro, Paris.
Dieciséis de Septiembre (September 16th) marks the beginning of Mexico's fight for freedom from nearly 300 years of Spanish rule. The holiday begins on the evening of September 15th when the president of Mexico stands on his balcony and declares Mexico free from outside rule. This is the holiday all of Mexico observes.
So why would we celebrate Cinco de Mayo instead of Dieciséis de Septiembre? It's not like we would pick another day besides July 14th to celebrate France's national holiday, Bastille Day, so why do this to our closest neighbors besides Canada? As an aside, do we celebrate anything for Canada? I'm not sure we do, but we should, maybe with a pancake breakfast and gallons of maple syrup. If anyone felt compelled to make it a drinking holiday, maybe mimosas. Sorry, I digress.
Of all the reasons I have heard for Cinco de Mayo over Mexico's real national holiday, the best is that Cinco de Mayo fits better on a beer can or restaurant marquee. Cinco de Mayo probably won't be spelled wrong by well-meaning, enthusiastic Americans not schooled in Spanish. And if one were to over indulge in margaritas, Dieciséis de Septiembre would be a real mouthful.
All of that said, have a happy Cinco de Mayo. I'm having a few guests over tonight, and dinner definitely will have a south of the borden influence. Cha cha cha.
All photos were taken in or near Guadalajara, Mexico. If you haven't been there, go. You won't be sorry. Tacos are 6 for 5 pesos (about 50 cents) and you can eat outside on the patio, even in November.