Ever stopped to think about the fact that both St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo aren’t official holidays on the U.S. calendar, but both serve as the occasion (or perhaps excuse is a better word) for parties featuring ethnic food – and lots of alcohol?
And with Cinco de Mayo (sometimes waggishly referred to as Cinco de Drinko) coming up this Friday (a big score for bars who will do a brisk business fueled by sales of Corona, margaritas and tequila shots), a few sports events have seen fit to tie in.
The ever-popular 5K, for example, is usually confined to a weekend; however, on May 5 of this year, the Running in the USA event calendar shows a distinct spike. Whereas most Fridays might have 20 to 30 5K events listed, that particular Friday has nearly 50 of them, although there are plenty being held on the Saturday and Sunday following. Many of the events on all three days have names containing the words, “Cinco de Mayo” (or variations on that theme), as well as words like “Margarita” and “Tex-Mex.” One went so far as to have a T-shirt printed up with the words “A Race Every Juan Can Run.” (Unfortunately, the shirt was better than the event itself, if the reviews are to be believed).
Of course, there are plenty of other sports – and plenty of other ways – to commemorate Cinco de Mayo. Some cities tie in week-long celebrations with a number of activities, while others will host Mexican and Hispanic heritage festivals with the intention of educating the public. Some straddle the line between recreational and educational. Just keep at least some semblance of political correctness; in other words, don’t let this happen to your event.
But no matter how often Americans think they’re absorbing Mexican culture by sucking down tequila shots, chowing down on burritos and humming "La Cucaracha," there’s one piece of misinformation they, interestingly enough, refuse to give up on. Americans simply can’t be talked out of the idea that Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican equivalent of the United States’ Fourth of July holiday.
Actually, the Mexican version of Independence Day is celebrated on September 16. What Cinco de Mayo really commemorates is the Mexican victory against French forces led by Emperor Napoleon III in the Battle of Puebla, which took place on May 5, 1862. That victory is the basis of Cinco de Mayo celebrations because it symbolizes Mexican unity, pride and determination in the face of overwhelming odds.
The other common misconception about Cinco de Mayo among Americans is that if the holiday is so well-known here in the U.S., it must be an enormous celebration in Mexico. But Cinco de Mayo is not a national holiday in Mexico: it’s recognized in Mexico, but it’s only an official holiday in the Mexican states of Veracruz and (of course) Puebla.
In fact, the biggest Cinco de Mayo celebrations typically occur not in Mexico but in U.S. cities with large Hispanic populations, such as Los Angeles. And just as St. Patrick’s Day has long been celebrated throughout America in areas without significant Irish populations, Cinco de Mayo is now also commonly celebrated in towns across the U.S. that are predominantly non-Hispanic.