It's Cinco de Mayo, which is not Mexican Independence Day but the date of the Mexican army's victory over the much larger French army at the battle of Puebla in 1862. (Mexico gained independence from Spain on midnight of September 15/16, 1810.)
So, why is it such a big deal here in the U.S.? Is it tantamount to St Patrick's day in showcasing ethnic pride and culture? Or, is it because it has a nice ring to it and helps sell beer and Tequila?
From a militaristic standpoint, it's an important day because it stalled the French occupation of Mexico by about a year therefore severely limiting Napolean's ability to fund and supply the confederate rebels. And, since the Union Army helped the Mexican Army out in this battle, many Mexicans returned the favor and joined the Union Army. The battle of Puebla may therefore be partially responsible for helping to end the American Civil War. (Just my $.02, of course, others will dispute that assertion.)
In any case, it is a day that highlights Mexican culture here in the U.S. It's also a good day to think about how important Mexican immigrants are now, and have been, to our nation.
At this moment in our history, more than ever, we need to celebrate and honor the accomplishments of all things Mexican! What to do? Learn the history of the day. Visit MALDEF's site to find out ways to take action on behalf of Mexican-Americans. Watch a Mexican film. Check out the UUA's "Crash Course for Immigrant Justice" actions and activities. Finally, although born in Texas, Gloria E. Anzaldúa is a must read on Bordeland issues.
Ésta es mi abuelo mexicano y mi hija: