5 Little-Known Facts About Cinco de Mayo

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Cinco de Mayo is a uniquely American phenomenon. Think they’re going wild with margaritas, baile folklorico, and tortilla chips all over Mexico this week? Not exactly. This list of five little-known facts about Cinco de Mayo will enlighten you on the finer aspects of this year’s holiday. Viva el Mexico!

1. It all started with a credit default. In 1861, after years of fighting both internally and with America, Mexico was bankrupt. That year, President Benito Juarez “issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for a brief period of two years, with the promise that after this period, payments would resume,” according to UCLA’s Chicano network. The French, English, and Spanish weren’t interested in waiting around, so they invaded Mexico to retrieve their payments. The latter two countries retreated, but the French tried to take over the country. Cinco de Mayo resulted when the Mexicans defeated the French in Puebla, Mexico.

2. Cinco de Mayo is a big deal in the US–but not in Mexico. In Mexico, it is primarily a regional holiday, celebrated around Puebla. In the United States, it’s nationwide. This makes it more of a Chicano than a Mexican holiday.

3. The margarita was invented about 70 years after the Cinco de Mayo defeat.
Those Puebla victors may have toasted with tequila, but it took a while for ice, sugar, and lime to find its way into their cups. The battle of Puebla took place in 1862. The margarita didn’t come about until 1930 or later, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

4. The first US Cinco de Mayo celebration took place in 1967. A group of California State University students started commemorating the holiday to recapture Chicano history (there was no Chicano holiday at the time).

5. 2009 is a good Cinco de Mayo year for observant Jews. A Long Island company is releasing kosher tequila just in time for the holiday. Agave 99, a 99-proof rabbi-certified tequila, will cost $41.95 per bottle, according to MSNBC.