Market Research: Cinco de Mayo Isn't Independence Day

But Its Connection With U.S. History Might Surprise You

By Published on .

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
As Cinco de Mayo festivals get canceled across the U.S. because of swine flu, and anti-Mexican sentiment appears to be raising its ugly head, it seemed appropriate to highlight the potentially important impact that the Battle of Puebla (aka Cinco de Mayo) had on U.S. history. In other words, it's not just about Corona and carnitas, you know.

By now if you're still referring to Cinco de Mayo as Mexican Independence Day, you probably aren't reading this blog. You may not be reading anything at all. That said, most of us are aware of a few Cinco de Mayo facts, mostly focused on the Battle of Puebla, in which the Mexican Army, against all odds, was victorious against French intervention.

From a marketing standpoint, it is also commonly known that Cinco de Mayo celebrations are mostly a U.S. phenomenon initiated by Latinos in the U.S. and embraced by the U.S. Hispanic advertising community as a promotional opportunity for clients ranging from alcohol to zoos. The holiday is celebrated in some areas of Mexico, but not at the national level.

But an aspect of Cinco de Mayo that isn't often discussed is the role the victory at Puebla had in keeping the U.S. safe from one of two history-changing scenarios: 1) Confederate victory during the Civil War and 2) French intervention in the U.S.

The Battle of Puebla took place in 1862, the same year that Abraham Lincoln was wrestling with a Civil War on U.S. soil. The following historical perspective, taken from North Carolina's Fayetville Observer and confirmed via other sources, puts a new U.S. twist on the legend of Cinco de Mayo.

During this time, Confederate General Robert E. Lee was enjoying success, and had the French defeated México at Puebla, France would have aided the South in the American Civil War in order to free Southern ports of the Union Blockade. The Mexicans had won a great victory that kept Napoleon III from supplying the confederate rebels for another year, allowing the United States to build the greatest army the world had ever seen.

This grand army smashed the Confederates at Gettysburg just 14 months after the battle of Puebla. ... Union forces were then rushed to the Texas/Mexican border under General Phil Sheridan, who made sure that the Mexicans got all the weapons and ammunition they needed to expel the French. American soldiers were discharged with their uniforms and rifles if they promised to join the Mexican Army to fight the French.

The American Legion of Honor marched in the Victory Parade in Mexico City. It might be a historical stretch to credit the survival of the United States to those brave 4,000 Mexicans who faced an army twice as large in 1862. But who knows?"
So rather than indulge in Mexico-phobic attitudes and question your Hispanic marketing efforts in reaction to xenophobic pressures, take a moment to reflect on the interconnected nature of the U.S. and Mexico (not to mention the rest of the American continent). Swine flu will come and go, but the fifth of May is here to stay, so unless your heritage is French or Confederate, you might want to make the most of it.

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