Cinco de Mayo a holiday for all

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By Jay Miller

On Sunday, America will celebrate the most increasingly popular day of
the year.
It is ironic that just four days earlier, on May 1, we almost completely ignored the celebration of a day with many reasons to observe.
May 1 has been celebrated as a pagan festival to welcome spring and encourage fertility since long before the beginnings of Christianity; then it was International Workers Day; then the day the Soviet Union paraded its military hardware; then it was Law Day and Loyalty Day.
International Workers Day still is celebrated in most industrialized countries, but in the United States and Canada, we recognize labor in September, so May 1 passes without notice.
But on May 5, we let it all hang out. It is Cinco de Mayo and we celebrate a Mexican victory in a small battle to stop the French invasion, which soon succeeded in taking over the country.
The big celebration in Mexico is on Sept. 16, commemorating victory in the long struggle for independence from Spain.
So if the United States wants to help its neighbor to the south celebrate a glorious occasion, why don’t we celebrate their biggest day on Sept. 16?
Some suggest the timing is off. Even though Sept. 16 technically is still summer, our Labor Day is considered the last bash of the summer. Everyone is home from vacation and the kids are into their school activities.
So why is May 5 better? Could it be because the May 1 events don’t involve partying? Neither do Easter and Memorial Day.
Wikipedia says it is because the French loss at Puebla kept them from helping the south in our Civil War so their cotton ports could stay open.
That doesn’t make much sense because France just brought over more troops and crushed everything its path on the way to Mexico City.
England and Spain, which Napoleon III expected to join him, had found other sources of cotton in India and Egypt, which France began using too.
I’m more convinced by the argument that the timing is good for beer companies to kick off their summer season. Practically the entire nation gets involved in Mexican-themed celebrations.
Why? Maybe it is to acknowledge the significant numbers of Hispanics found in many communities throughout the nation. Perhaps it is because the culture is known for having fun.
Do you suppose there will be evidence that the Republican Party at the local, state and national levels will be more involved in Cinco de Mayo activities this year? Sounds like a good idea to me.
Meanwhile, the people of Mexico must be scratching their heads about the fun we are having with their little celebration.
I have read that only the people of Puebla and surrounding area make it a big celebration.
They have good justification for making it a big celebration. Mexico wasn’t winning a lot of battles in those days. They had recently lost half their territory to the United States.
The French were completely surprised by the fierce fight the locals and Indians put up under the leadership of Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza.
The French retreated and sent for reinforcements.
Ever since our fifth president’s Monroe Doctrine, The United States had taken a firm position that Europe should keep its hands off the Western hemisphere. But we were too busy fighting each other here in the United States to enforce our doctrine.
The French took advantage of that by taking control of Mexico for several years until we got our problems resolved.
When our Civil War ended, the U.S. government took note of France’s action and managed to apply diplomatic pressure get them out of Mexico without us firing a shot.
By 1867 France began withdrawing its troops.
Emperor Maximilian, who had been installed by Napoleon, was captured by troops of the Mexican Republic and executed by firing squad.