Photo courtesy of THE DENVER POST VIA GETTY.

What first comes to mind when you think of Cinco de Mayo?

Is it a day of planning what place to visit for authentic Mexican food with your friends and loved ones ? Or is it finding the best drinks with people on the streets wearing sombreros? On social media and commercials, do you see companies trying to market the holiday?

The real history of the holiday is the defeat of the French in Mexico in the 1860s.

The French wanted to continue their bouts of victory and expand their empire into Mexico. Napoleon III sent his troops to Mexico City to overthrow their leader president Benito Juarez. While U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was preoccupied with the Civil War, the French were expected to easily triumph over the Mexican troops, which would later  lead a new Mexican monarch that would help the Confederacy.

On May 5, 1862, the Mexican troops defeated the French in the battle of Puebla.

“The surprise victory galvanized Latinos who came during the gold rush, causing mass celebration,” David A. Hayes Bautista, author of “El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition,” wrote.

One of the first celebrations was in Tuolumne County California. Soon, many organizations were created to fight against slavery not only in Mexico, but in the U.S. as well.

In the 1930s, the celebration for the victory seemed to dwindle down along with Civil War victory. The celebraton for Cinco de Mayo as a civil rights holiday also started to fall through the cracks.

By the 1980s and 90s, the number of Hispanic consumer had risen drastically, leaving marketing teams of multiple franchises and companies to have the day as a holiday to celebrate Mexican-American culture and it’s been carried on ever since. It was also during the 1980s’ that the Chicano movement — which took place in the 1960s and 1970s — popularized Cinco de Mayo, which led marketers to try and commercialize the holiday.


According to a study reported by Forbes, only 53% of Latinos are satisfied with how they’re portrayed in advertising and marketing while 45% of fully “acultural” Latinos suggested that marketers are taking shortcuts by portraying stereotypes rather than authentic stories.

A dish from My Mexico in Jersey City. (Courtesy of Queen Hiwat / Google Images)

“Brands must demonstrate their understanding of cultural nuance and get very specific about telling a story that is true,” Jack Mackinnon, senior director of cultural insights at Collage Group, and co-author of “America Now 2022” told Forbes.

“Being nuanced and culturally sensitive will have a halo effect that consumers, both in and out of the community, will understand. It makes the ad a lot more interesting for everybody because the brand is inclusive.”

So, how do you celebrate Cinco de Mayo in an authentic way

Try tasting Mexican dishes that you’ve never tried before; you can try heading down to My Mexico, located on 720 West Side Avenue in Jersey City, which sells a wide variety of cultural staples like tostadas, horchata and more. You can also learn a bit about Mexican history through their music like corrido, which focuses on storytelling, but has since evolved and been fused with Trap music, creating a whole new genre that has gained much popularity.

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