#HR Trends and Insights

The reason for celebrating Cinco de Mayo

May 05, 2023

It’s May 5th! You may be used to hosting or attending a party to celebrate this day.

But do you know the reasoning behind May 5th? It’s the commemoration of Mexico’s victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla.

So, what was The Battle of Puebla about, and why was it important?

Almost two centuries ago, Mexico was working hard to minimize colonization, reform their constitution, and establish a national identity outside of the influence of Spain, Britain, and France.

And in 1862, then Mexican president Benito Juárez had a decision to make: stop making debt payments to France, Spain, and Britain or watch his country starve. He made the obvious choice. He suspended debt repayments for a period of two years.

Napoleon III saw this as an excellent opportunity to dispatch 6,000 soldiers to collect what was owed and to expand French Territory.

On May 5th 1862, even poorly equipped, and with fewer men (4,000 to the French’s 6,000), the battle for the city of Puebla was won by Mexico. An amazing and unexpected feat.

But why does the U.S celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

The first Cinco de Mayo celebration was held the very next year (1863) in California where Mexican Americans were raising money to aid those still fighting the French in the Mexican states (Napoleon didn’t give up after the Battle of Puebla… though the French were eventually driven out).

Those early celebrations were about fighting for democracy and freedom both in the United States and in Mexico (this was also the time of the American Civil War).

As stated by Dr. Lavariega Monforti, vice provost at California State University, the celebration gradually became a festival for Mexicans and Mexican Americans across the country, as well as part of a developing Mexican American civil rights movement that started in the 1940s. Many activists started pointing to Cinco de Mayo as a source of pride.

Over time the origins of the celebration became less pronounced (as happens with almost every celebration – they change and evolve). And in the 1980’s brewing companies saw their chance to capitalize on the popularity and rise of Mexican restaurants by reviving what they saw as an obscure holiday to hawk their imported alcohol.

The marketing was highly effective, which is why non-Mexicans are aware of, and celebrate, May 5th to this day. But up until recently, it’s safe to say… the majority of non-Mexican Americans were celebrating with no knowledge of “why.”

But how do you celebrate respectfully?

  1. Know what you’re celebrating – As Mexican American chef Claudia Sandoval puts it; Cinco de Mayo is about “celebrating the ability to stand up to forces beyond measure.” Though the holiday has morphed over the years, it’s still a celebration of the long list of wonderful things Mexico has brought to American culture and of the resilience of the Mexican people.
  2. Support local Mexican business – Go to your local taqueria or traditional restaurant or, you could research traditional recipes and cook at home. Be sure to buy the meat and ingredients from the local carnicería or grocery.
  3. Appreciate Mexican art and culture – For a chill Cinco de Mayo with kids, visit local museums and art galleries that showcase Mexican art, culture, and overall artistic expression. Or, if you live in a city with Cinco de Mayo celebratory parades, attend!
  4. Enjoy the long tradition of excellent Mexican spirits: Purchase beverages from your local Mexican Grocery or Convenience.
  5. Go dancing: If you love salsa, merengue, bachata, and cumbia, get out there and dance the night away!
  6. Take public transportation to your event: While you are out honoring the cultural contribution of the around 37.2 million people of Mexican origin in the U.S, stay respectful and stay safe by taking the train or bus to and from your events!

How Edenred celebrates Cinco de Mayo

We celebrate by getting you from work to your chosen celebration safely through the use of public transportation. Your employer has the power to allow you to set aside up to $300 of your paycheck each month (pre-tax!) to be spent on taking public transportation to and from work. Setting aside these pre-tax dollars means you aren’t paying tax on this income. At the end of the year, you end up saving up to $700 on average.

Schedule a meeting with us to learn more about our programs and find the best options for you and your employees.

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