May 5 is known as Cinco de Mayo in the U.S. For many it is a time to celebrate all things Mexican and this is why those avocados you were planning to buy recently just got a whole lot more expensive. But what is this holiday really all about?
According to History, Cinco de Mayo marks a Mexican victory over France.
“Cinco de Mayo — or the fifth of May — is a holiday that celebrates the date of the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867).”
Many people associate Cinco de Mayo as an independence day for Mexico. However, this isn’t really the case. Mexico has an Independence day and it falls on September 16. Instead, as The Guardian points out, Cinco de Mayo is the commemoration of an “improbable military victory.”
In 1861, when Benito Juarez was elected president of Mexico, the country was in financial ruin. At the time, France, Britain, and Spain all demanded repayment for Mexico’s outstanding debts with them. Britian and Spain negotiated and ended up withdrawing their forces. France, on the other hand, decided it was time to “carve an empire out of Mexican territory,” according to History.
France was confident of their victory and sent 6,000 troops to a small town in Mexico called Puebla de Los Angeles. In retaliation, Juarez managed to gather 2,000 troops. It was never going to be an even battle and many of these men were poorly trained and ill-equipped compared to France’s troops.
Regardless, the Mexicans fortified the town and managed to hold their own against the French. By the end of the battle, that lasted from sunrise until the early evening, France had lost nearly 500 soldiers. The Mexicans tallied, by comparison, less than 100 deaths. As a result of this, France withdrew and it was considered a victory for Mexico. Although, a year later, France eventually defeated Mexico in a second battle at Puebla.
While this battle was considered to have symbolic significance, it is a date that is not widely celebrated in Mexico outside of Puebla, where the battle took place all those years ago. However, in the U.S., it is an entirely different story.
According to Time, Cinco de Mayo began as a celebration in the U.S. in the “era of the Gold Rush and the Civil War.” And, while today’s celebrations include drinking margaritas and celebrating Mexican cuisine, for those early days, it was more about the ongoing geopolitical conflict at the time in the U.S.
When Latinos living in California, Nevada, and Oregon heard about the victory at Puebla, they immediately started celebrating. The reason for this is they saw it as a victory not only against the French, but against the current threat of slavery in some parts of the U.S. At the time, Lincoln was still fighting the Confederate States in regard to this issue. In Mexico, however, slavery had been abolished prior to this. Latinos in the U.S. saw it as a victory against slavery with Mexico’s win over France, as the concern was that the French were of a mind to reinstate slavery if it were to be victorious over Mexico at the time.
Since that point, Latinos residing in the U.S. would celebrate Cinco de Mayo (which translates to “fifth of May”) and the event has evolved from a political commemoration to a cultural celebration.
This is one of the reasons that those avocados you were planning to buy prior to May 5 have jumped in price, sometimes by as much as 55 percent, according to USA Today. As demand spikes, prices can be expected to go up at this time of year. Although, as USA Today points out, this year the price jump also has other factors. These include “salty soil in California after years of drought and the fickle nature of the trees themselves.”
The California Avocado Commission predicts a whooping 105 million pounds of avocados will be devoured during Cinco de Mayo. But because of the other factors triggering the price rise, they estimate consumer demand will likely be down from the 135 million avocados consumed last year during Cinco de Mayo.
Are you celebrating Cinco de Mayo? Let us know by commenting below.
[Featured Image by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]