Hooray for Cinco de Mayo, the day America celebrates Mexico's victory over France! The battle in 1862 was especially important because it did not change the tide of war in Mexico's favor one damn bit.
Even though El Dia de la Batalla de Puebla is only celebrated regionally in Mexico, it's a big party in the United States. Sure, we import a lot of holidays here to the U.S., but why do Americans celebrate a holiday that most of Mexico ignores? And the answer -- just like it is to marital problems -- is heavy drinking.
And if that doesn't work, have the sun grow a mustache.
You no doubt gathered from my Irish name that I am of Mexican descent, except not at all. But where heritage has failed me, eating a mountain of Mexican food each week qualifies me as an expert. I've devoured a lot of cuisines, and none surpasses Mexican, so it's plainly the superior culture. That's why my taco-tumescent tummy and I would like to educate you about May 5, the best drinking holiday of the year! And maybe, just maybe, the most American holiday of them all. Sprinkled along the way are fun tips to help you celebrate the day to the utmost.
#5. We've Been Celebrating It from the Start
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May 5 celebrations in Mexico are mostly kept to the Puebla region where the battle occurred. But in the United States, it's a different holiday entirely. The modern celebration has become very popular among 10 people in Mexico and Americans who do whatever advertisers tell them ...
... except, of course, for all those chunks of the U.S. cheering almost as soon as the battle was won. Don't forget, the Mexican population of the United States didn't vanish once their land was annexed/conquered /purchased/Polked/Pierced. You know what happens when you cut a population off from its cultural homeland? They get extra patriotic.
I apologize for emailing you all those dead Englishman jokes every day, Luke McKinney.
In fact, it was Mexicans living in what had only recently become America who created the holiday, and they kept on partying while Mexico let the fields of celebration lie fallow. And when Chicano activists began asserting their pride in the '60s as Americans of Mexican heritage, the 5th of May celebrated both sides, as well as the sizzling dynamic in between. Will these two nations ever get together? Find out on the season finale of ... Pasion sin Fronteras.
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Damn, Mexican America, I look into your eyes and want to make sweet patriotism to you.
#4. It May Have Saved the Union
A lot of Americans hate the French for that time they, uh ... um ... well, I don't know what they did, but the point is FREEDOM.
Let this statue ever stand to condemn you for extending friendship in our hour of need.
Remember back in 2003 when we were going to curb stomp Iraq and asked France to ride along even though we didn't need them? We were all "Be a bro!" And France was like "Euh ... non, merci." Man, that was cold. It's not like we ever left them twisting in the wind.
I mean ... not forever.
Napoleon, though -- man, even France hates them some Napoleon. And this wasn't the rabid Napoleon you had to respect; this was Napoleon III.
Wasn't Adolphe Yvon the fifth member of Marilyn Manson?
Essentially the Highlander: The Final Dimension of French emperors.
You have to remember that 1800s France was a danger to itself and others. Having anointed the last century in the blood of its own people, it baptized the 19th in the tears of everyone else. French cannons punched fiery holes in all parts of the globe, and what was done to those holes cannot be described in polite conversation, nor on Cracked.
Mexico at this point had been through so much war that it looked like Officer Murphy five minutes before he became RoboCop. Of course, in RoboCop, OCP spent millions salvaging Murphy, which is way more money than Mexico had, so they ended up handing out IOUs to their creditors. Spain and England, after some grumbling, agreed, because money is good money. France, on the other hand, assumed an attitude toward Mexico not unlike the attitude Red from That '70s Show held toward every other character in RoboCop.
Meanwhile, America was in the middle of this tussle called the Civil War, which, guys, was not civil at all. So the Western Hemisphere's sophomore term was blazing with hazing. Not helping at all was the fact that Napoleon III's France was supplying the Confederate army, since neither he nor President Lincoln wanted to directly combat one another. (But if they did, Lincoln would win, obviously.)
After the Battle of Puebla, it took France a full year to stop wiping its bloody nose, during which time the Confederates lost much French backing. That meant Original Recipe America could focus its efforts on a single gray-clad foe who was whistling Dixie and states-righting itself deeper into a hole.
#3. We Love an Underdog
It's pretty impressive when a few thousand underequipped dudes, outnumbered 2-to-1 (or worse), repel the second biggest empire on Earth. It stands as the moment when the picked-on kid, weary from all the beatings at school and cutting at home, gathers his fury and demolishes a stunned bully. It was such a scene of fantastic, righteous fury at the incursion that made A Christmas Story every kid's favorite.
This, then, was Mexico's "Ralphie" moment.
Everyone loves that righteous victory, but in America it's woven into our self-image. This is where the poor come for a chance at a better life, and the rich stay to dangle it in front of them. Our narrative promotes three values: doing things for yourself, overcoming daunting odds, and sticking it to the man. And since a new part of our narrative is saying "the hell with that" and hiring Mexican immigrants to do the hard work, their history is bound to our mythos. And if you're Mexican-American, you get to lay claim to both! You lucky fellow.
When Mexico did yield to French forces, Napoleon installed Maximilian I as emperor of Mexico in what looked like history's most expensive practical joke.
Mexico bet France they could turn him into a winner before prom.
As soon as we had the Civil War stitched up, America said, "Hey, nobody occupies Mexico but us!" Sure, we had robbed that nation blind a couple wars earlier, but now we respected its ability to take a punch. To thank Mexico for taking the heat off us, and also to remind Napoleon that he was a dick, we backed Mexico's play for autonomy.
Thanks to the tag-team effort, Maximilian's empire failed to gain an audience, but its three-year run was critically acclaimed as "hilarious" and "a fun return to the classic tyranny of post-antiquity Rome." Upon cancellation, its star was shot dead by two generals who tearfully saluted him in what historians agree was an over-the-top, melodramatic finale to what had so far been a dark comedy.
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