Bellevue College Celebrates Cinco de Mayo with Focus on History

Dayna Verlinsky // The Watchdog

On Tuesday, May 7, the Latinx Students Affinity Coordinator hosted a Taco Tuesday event in a belated celebration of Cinco de Mayo. A line of hungry students and faculty snaked around the perimeter of the cafeteria for tacos while the film “Cinco de Mayo: La Batalla” was screened. This event contributed to a growing cultural wave to shed light on the origins of Cinco de Mayo, rather than its modern-day legacy of commercialization and appropriation in the United States.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican victory against French forces led by Napoleon III at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, Mexico’s army of 2,000 men went against Napoleon III’s French army of 6,000 in the modern-day city of Puebla. Incredibly, the Mexican army declared victory by the end of the day, protecting the independence of Mexico and defeating the superpower army they were against. For many Americans, however, Cinco de Mayo is thought of as a drinking holiday: Local cantinas and bars adorned with Mexican decor can be seen overflowing with patrons. According to a YouGov survey, 40% of American participants believe that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day. Another 19% didn’t know the origin of the holiday. 

Though the fifth of May still has significance in Mexico, especially in the state of Puebla where the famed battle took place, the holiday may be more of an American celebration than a Mexican one. Most states outside of Puebla do not observe Cinco de Mayo in any notable capacity. Rather, it is recognized more in a historical context as a major stepping stone to ensuring Mexico’s independence. Andrea Guardado, who coordinated the Cinco de Mayo event on May 7, emphasized the importance of teaching the history of the holiday to people who partake in Cinco de Mayo festivities. “The main goal of the event [was] for students to learn what Cinco de Mayo actually was. It was a hard battle for Mexico, and it was not our Independence Day. We hope to do this through the movie, and by letting everyone enjoy delicious tacos.” The event succeeded in its goal, bringing people together to learn the often overlooked history of a misunderstood holiday. To learn more about Cinco de Mayo, watch the film screened at the event: “Cinco de Mayo: La Batalla.” To get involved in future events put on by the Latinx Students Affinity Coordinator, visit the Student Affinity Groups page.