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Explaining the history of Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrating Mexico's victory over France in 1862 in the Battle of Puebla.

IOWA, USA — Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrating Mexico's victory over France in a battle that took place in the state of Puebla back in 1862.

Mexican soldiers were greatly outnumbered in the fight, but their resilience carried them to victory. Here in Iowa, Latino community leaders explained many people do not understand the true reason behind the holiday. 

They said although it's always welcomed to celebrate Latino history, you must learn about it first.

"It's celebrated in Mexico, of course, but mostly in the state of Puebla. because here was the battle between the French army," said Andrea Serna, a native of Mexico.

That's not the only misconception this holiday carries, as many people mistake it as Mexico's Independence day, a day Serna believes deserves the attention that Cinco de Mayo receives

"I mean, you can celebrate Cinco de Mayo as you want, because yeah, it's a party, as I said before. But maybe give the 16th of September a little more 'booyah', because it is the most important date in Mexico."

Joe Enriques Henry from the League of United Latin American Citizens, (LULAC) explained how many people in the U.S. celebrate this holiday inappropriately

"Taking advantage of this holiday for the sake of drinking and partying, without having a deep understanding of who we are, as a community. it's unfortunate. it's been monetized," he said.

He encourages people to avoid partaking in activities and wearing clothes that do not represent the Latin community in a fair way.

"We see many, many people from the white community out there dressing up celebrating acting as if they're Latino, without understanding who we are, and take that image and think that they can use it. It is so exploitive in so many different ways. That is not a celebration, that is taking advantage that is exploiting who we are, as a Latino community."

Serna believes the best way to understand the cultural significance of this holiday is by visiting the place it originated from.

"You can listen to us, you can travel over here you can see yourselves, what is Cinco de Mayo, and what is the 16th of Septembre, that is our independence. I think travel is the most important thing for you to learn about other places."

Enriques Henry reminds Iowans celebrating Latino culture and history isn't exclusive to May 5. He said there are many opportunities year-round to have important conversations that help us learn about our fellow Latino Iowans.

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