Published on March 23rd, 2012 | by Mark Chesnut
Time to Celebrate: It’s the 150th Anniversary of Cinco de Mayo
BY MARK CHESNUT
The Mexican celebration called Cinco de Mayo is always festive — especially in the United States and in the city of Puebla, Mexico, where it all started. But this year, things may be grander than ever in Cinco de Mayo’s birthplace, since it’s the 150th anniversary of this important event.
So how should you prepare for the big anniversary? Here are a few suggestions:
• First, get your facts straight. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day. In fact, May 5th isn’t even that big a holiday in most of Mexico. The main place where you’ll see people on the streets is Puebla, Mexico’s fourth-largest city. The event commemorates the day when, in 1862, a band of some 4,000 Mexican soldiers served up a stunning defeat to a much larger force of 8,000 French troops, who were intent on invasion.
Since the fight took place in Puebla, May 5 is a time for impressive military parades and celebrations right in the city (I shot the pic above during the parade one year, as a throng of perfectly dressed military nurses marched by). Of course, in the United States, Cinco de Mayo has taken on a decidedly more general festive tone, and serves as anything from a celebration of Mexican heritage to an excuse for people to enjoy drink specials at their favorite local hangout. But go to Puebla, and you’ll get the true flavor.
• Consider visiting Cinco de Mayo’s birthplace. Puebla is just 85 miles from Mexico City, making it easy to reach (you can also fly nonstop to Puebla from various Mexican cities, and from Houston on Continental Airlines).
A company called Tía Stephanie Tours is offering a package tour called “Discover the REAL Cinco de Mayo in Puebla, Mexico” that includes both the 150thanniversary celebration as well as the International Mole Festival, an event that highlights one of Puebla’s most legendary (and delicious) culinary creations.
• Celebrate locally. Many cities outside of Mexico will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo’s 150th anniversary this year. In Los Angeles, local dance troupes will perform on May 5 along Olvera Street, a pedestrian-only walkway near where the city was founded. And in Dallas, there will be a big parade and festival in Jaycee/Zaragoza Park and a pre-Cinco de Mayo fundraiser to benefit the Cinco de Mayo Scholarship Program.
• Capture some flavor with artwork. Not to tout my own work too much, but for some reason, my surreal photo of marching military nurses from Puebla’s Cinco de Mayo parade has become the biggest-selling artwork in my Zazzle shop. It’s available as a print, as well on gift cards, post cards and even cell phone cases.
I’m not sure how many people realize the image is from Cinco de Mayo — I have a feeling the popularity of this image, which I’ve exhibited in public gallery shows, resonates with people who support our hard-working nursing community, or who want to send a symbolic “army of nurses” to wish their sick friends well. But at any rate, it is also a symbol of Mexico’s pride about one of the nation’s most exciting moments in history.
Nurses on parade by mundera
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