Cinco de Mayo is coming up and as Spanish teachers, it’s our chance to set the record straight.
1. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day (which is actually Sept. 16th), but is instead the celebration of the Battle of Puebla when Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza led a poorly armed group of mestizos and zapotecs to victory against the French (Napoleon III’s forces).
2. Cinco de Mayo is not a national Mexican holiday. It is mostly celebrated in Puebla, where the battle took place.
3. Cinco de Mayo is not a big deal in Mexico – in fact, it has become a bigger deal in the United States because companies realized they could sell more products in celebration of Cinco de Mayo.
4. The victory didn’t last long. A year later, Napoleon III sent 30,000 troops back and they took control of Mexico, including Mexico City. The French were in power from 1864-1867.
5. Maximilion (French) ruled Mexico during this time period, but then Napoleon III withdrew his support and the United States started to come to the aid of Mexico. Maximilion was eventually imprisoned and then killed.
In my Spanish classes, I use a PowerPoint that starts with a joke about Cinco de Mayo (sinking of a big shipment of mayonnaise on the Titanic), then give a true/false quiz about Cinco de Mayo, and finally teach them the facts about what actually happened. Since Cinco de Mayo isn’t really a big deal in Mexico, then I show photos of authentic Mexican culture (from my month-long Fulbright-Hays trip there).
This is a great activity to break down stereotypes about Mexico. Cinco de Mayo is always a fun day in Spanish class. Here’s a link to my full Cinco de Mayo lesson plans and my Mexico pictures.
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