Cinco de What Now?

It’s funny how history has a way of changing. And you thought I was going to say repeating itself…

I didn’t notice this before I moved to the States. It’s probably because I was partly so wrapped up in everything I was doing that I didn’t take 30 seconds to look at the world around me like I do now. Maybe it’s partly an American thing, but I don’t think so.

Today is Cinco de Mayo. That’s some foreign language for May 5th. Spanish actually. Ask most people over here what the significance of Cinco de Mayo is and they will probably say ‘it’s Mexican Independence Day”. Some will think they are smart and say “it’s the celebration of Mexican Independence but it’s held today instead of the actual day in a few weeks time”.

Hmmm. Something smells fishy. How could so many people be so wrong?

Over lunch today I sat with “Uncle Bill” and two of my co-workers Ryan and Jesse. Lunch was good, in case you are interested. I had a Spinach salad while they all celebrated “Mexican Independence Day” with their Tex-Mex food.

I asked Bill, a west-Brit from Dublin, if they really celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland like they do over here. I knew the answer before I asked but I was just doing what I do best, creating a debate topic out of nothing.

“Any excuse to go to the pub,” he said. “But do they celebrate it like they do here?” I asked. “No. They just go down the pub”. I’m sure most American’s don’t realize it – especially the Irish ones by descent. Not that I care anyway. After all, isn’t it better that we’re all out partying instead of suing and fighting each other? I just figured it was funny in that weird kind of way.

So I thought I’d up the ante. “It’s kind of ironic that the Irish celebrate an Englishman,” I added. “He was French” said Bill.

Out comes the iPhone. Sure enough the almighty knowledge in the world wide web had the answer. According to the Wikipedia (is it ever wrong?) he was a Roman-Briton. OK – so an early Englishman. Bill shrugged and said “I need a whiskey”.

See history changes for the way that most people believe it is, or at least that’s the way it seems. The story becomes legend, the legend become history.

I can’t recall the number of times I’ve had to point out that the Civil War wasn’t when “we kicked your English butts out of here”. I actually thought we did that to ourselves. And don’t mention how the interpretation of winning the war of 1812-1814 comes about.

Which brings me back round to Cinco de Mayo (it does… really).

On May 5th in 1751 the Portuguese government took steps to curb the Inquisitions powers. Shortly thereafter on May 5th 1814 the British attacked American forces at Fort Ontario, Oswego, New York (I know I said don’t mention it).

May 5th 1821 was the day Napoleon Bonaparte passed away while in exile on the island of St. Helens. Had he lived a little while longer (and not been captured by my namesake) he could have used the first mainland railway that opened on this day in Belgium for his trouncing across Europe.

America made a great move on May 5th 1865 when the 13th Amendment was ratified abolishing slavery, Alan Shepard became the first Amercian into space on this day in 1961 and inspired millions of kids to dream about the impossible dream that really can come true. And in 1988 a live broadcast from the top of Mount Everest is made for the first time by Japanese TV.

That’s all very well and good, but what’s up with the Mexican’s on this day?

Well in 1862 Mexican forces loyal to Benito Juarez defeated the French soldiers sent by Napoleon III in the battle of Puebla. In Mexico the province of Puebla still celebrates this day for that victory (although I’m not entirely sure that defeating the French is all that hard is it?). And that’s it. No independence, no conquering the world or another country. In fact it wasn’t even all of Mexico involved. But boy will they sell a lot of flags and beer today.

I’m certain that tomorrow will be May 6th and maybe in 100 years it will be celebrated by an entire nation for something that didn’t happen. I probably won’t be around to know.

Oh – and for the record, Mexican Independence Day is September 16th. De Septiembre el decimosexto – or something like that…