It is Tequila and Mini-Sombreros Day in America, hooray! It always seems like Cinco de Mayo should be Mexican Independence Day — dressing to match a national flag and getting wasted on a holiday named after its date on the calendar is how independence days are done, right? But today is actually the day when much of the United States unwittingly celebrates a Mexican military victory in 1862 over the asshole French army of Napoleon III that was in the process of trying to swoop in for some colonial sloppy seconds and take over the country (which they did, briefly). How did this become an American holiday? New historical research from a UCLA professor provides an idea of the celebration’s earliest appearance in the United States, and it is lovely.
[Professor David] Hayes-Bautista was culling Spanish-language newspapers in California and Oregon for vital statistics from the 1800s when he noticed how the Civil War and Cinco de Mayo battle were intertwined. He researches the epidemiology and demography of Latinos in California because he’s director of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture.
“I’m seeing how in the minds of the Spanish-reading public in California that they were basically looking at one war with two fronts, one against the Confederacy in the east and the other against the French in the south,” Hayes-Bautista said in an interview with CNN.
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