Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Mayo and Thoughts about Holidays

Oh, you just have to love Americans. We are so good at hijacking other nation's holidays and turning them into American drinking holidays.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did have to search Cinco de Mayo on Wikipedia to get an explanation of what the holiday is about. All I knew is that it wasn't Mexican Independence Day, and it was about beating the French. (Seriously though, if every country had a holiday every time they beat the French, would we get any work done? Sorry, France, that was a cheap shot, but sometimes I just can't help myself. And I'm acutely aware of your role in the American War for Independence.)

(Another side note, and I'll move on. Americans not knowing why Cinco de Mayo is a holiday is one thing. But I'm always disturbed by the number of Americans who don't know why we celebrate July 4th. Yeah, they got the independence thing down, but you'd be surprised how many people think that is the day we beat the British or began the war with the British. And for any readers who think that, I'll spare you the embarrassment of looking it up and telling you it is the day 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence, which told Britain we think we are our own country. The war had already began and wouldn't end for another seven years.)

I won't rehash all that is on Wikipedia, because that is a pretty good explanation there, but the really short version is that Mexico wasn't paying its debts to other countries; France decided to invade to get its money; France lost the first battle of that war on May 5 at Puebla - a battle the French should have won; but the French rallied and marched to Mexico City; America told France to take a hike and they left. Thus, we drink on May 5.

I find it amusing that, according to Wikipedia, Cinco de Mayo is not really celebrated much in Mexico outside the city of Puebla. Until you reach the border. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is akin to St. Patrick's Day.

Cinco de Mayo also is celebrated by the consulate office in Hermosillo. In fact, there isn't much they don't celebrate at that office. I counted 21 holidays in 2010. One of the dirty little secrets is that the consulate is closed on both American and Mexican holidays.

The benefit of moving to a Catholic country - state-recognized holy day holidays. We get Holy Thursday and Good Friday (the Thursday and Friday before Easter Sunday, for the non-Christians out there) and All Soul's Day (Day of the Dead) on top of Christmas.

The benefit of moving to a country that has fought many wars - battle-related holidays. There is Cinco de Mayo, the Anniversary of the Revolution and Mexican Independence Day. That is six extra holidays so far. Then add in the Mexican Labor Day, Constitution Day, Mother's Day and Benito Juarez's Birthday - the namesake of Ciudad Juarez...he must be rolling over in his grave - and that is 10 bonus Mexican holidays on top of three we share with Mexico - Christmas and New Year's Day and New Year's Eve - and the eight U.S. holidays (because the government shuts down for MLK Jr. Day, President's Day and Columbus Day while the rest of the country works) and that is 21 days off.

(Sorry, but another item caught my attention and deserves another side bar. Mexico doesn't celebrate Columbus Day. Instead, they have Dia de la Raza (Day of the Race), and this is the day observed by many South American and Central American countries. According to my favorite resource, Wikipedia, this day "is seen as a counter to Columbus Day. It is used to resist the arrival of Europeans to the Americas and is used to celebrate the native races." I guess it must have been on a weekend in 2010 or on the same day as Columbus Day because it was not listed on the consulate office's list of holidays.)

Of course, then there also are weekends, earned vacation time and sick days. wonder people get frusterated with government excesses.

Though, as Natalie is quick to point out, every day is a holiday for me. And I didn't even have to beat the French!


  1. this is too funny! I had no idea Cinco de Mayo is not celebrated much in Mexico.
    And the vacation schedule rocks! One more reason I want to join, I must admit..

  2. The kids don't get out of school for Cinco de Mayo. We are told that it is mainly celebrated in the states and no longer in Mexico. Weird right?!?!

  3. I think I counted 21 holidays this year in Cotonou, but was disappointed to find about five of them land on weekends. It's hard to complain about 16 holidays. And yet, I think I just did.

  4. If you really want to geek out on the Fourth of July - which may be a fleeting feeling you get when you are about to go to your first Embassy/Consulate 4th of July party - check out "The Fourth of July and the founding of America" by Peter De Bolla. Also makes a nice hostess/host gift. :)

  5. To further confuse things, in Spain Columbus Day is known as Dia de la Hispanidad. I'm not a FS blogger, but an expat who reads lots of FS blogs and somehow or other ended up here. Couldn't help but add this tidbit of practically useless trivia.