Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

May 2, 2006 > Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo

by Mekala Raman

"Happy Cinco de Mayo!" As people at school and work wish one another happiness, they usually don't know the reason why Cinco de Mayo, or the 5 of May, is a special day for Mexicans. Cinco de Mayo is a day of festivities honoring the day, May 5, 1862, when Mexico won its victory over France. Although people believe that Cinco de Mayo celebrates independence, Mexico's actual Independence Day is on September 16, the day in 1810 when Mexico finally gained its independence from Spain.

Today many people, even non-Mexicans, recognize Cinco de Mayo as a special holiday and join in the celebration. In the 1800s, French, Spanish, and English troops landed in Mexico to collect debts from Mexican President Benito Juarez. After collecting the debts, Spain and England left. Napoleon, however, ordered the French armies to stay and claim Mexican land. He assumed that capturing the capital, Mexico City, would cause the Mexicans to surrender. Ragged Mexican soldiers faced a flamboyant French army of about 8,000 troops. However, using the terrain and irregular tactics (such as turning hundreds of cattle loose) to their advantage, they managed to defeat the French and save their land. Although some battles had been lost and Mexico was in French hands for a while, Benito Juarez returned to recapture the capital.

Customary dishes such as red, green and white rice are prepared to represent the flag of Mexico and are served along with red and green tamales, tortillas and various appetizers. Bread called buelo - a mixture of salt, flour and water fried in canola or peanut oil - is dished up warm with sugar or syrup and tamarindo, a fresh fruit drink, is also popular. Listening to music by mariachi bands (traveling musicians) and breaking pietas are also traditional customs.

Clothing plays an important role in celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Women dress in vibrant colors of orange, yellow, red, light blue, or lime green embroidery on white dresses. Young girls often braid their hair festooned with colorful ribbons for the festivities.

Today, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated enthusiastically in the state of Puebla where the fight for Mexico took place. Throughout Mexico, people celebrate their victory over France. Cities along the Mexican border or with a large population of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, celebrate their culture, customs, and enjoy special foods.

Cinco de May events in the Tri-Cities:

Wednesday, May 3
Cinco de Mayo
4 - 6 p.m.
Celebrate by making fried ice cream and crafts.
Silliman Activity Center
6800 Mowry Ave., Newark
(510) 742-4840

Wednesday, May 3

Cinco de Mayo Celebration
10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Music, food, folkloric and drawing.
Newark Community Center
35501 Cedar Blvd., Newark
(510) 742-2350

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