El Molino

Many celebrate Cinco De Mayo at Waseca's Mexican restaurants, including El Molino, pictured here. (Waseca County News file photo)

Cinco De Mayo is intended to be a day of rejoice for an unlikely battle victory in Puebla, Mexico in 1862, though in America, it has widely become a day to party and indulge in Mexican culture.

For some in Waseca, meanwhile, it's mostly a day to work.

The owners and workers of Mexican restaurants in town, like El Tequila and El Molino, will be enjoying the holiday while busily serving customers on one of their most prolific days of the year. The owners said they generally see a large turnout annually on May 5, with people out celebrating the holiday.

“We do our own celebration, but most of my family, we work together here, so we stay pretty busy and celebrating here with our customers,” El Tequila owner Gabriel Arreguin said.

Mis Tres Flores in Waseca is closed on Sundays and will be closed on Cinco De Mayo. El Tequila will have specials on food and drinks on Cinco De Mayo, and El Molino will also have Sunday specials along with t-shirt giveaways throughout the day for customers.

“It's a big day for us; people like celebrating with us, and it's a big change,” El Molino owner Oscar Marquez Alvarez said. “It's a busy day. I can say that it increases 20 or 30 percent over a normal Sunday or day.”

Marquez Alvarez said that he doesn't mind working on Cinco De Mayo, as it is more of a tradition in the United States to celebrate. He said that Mexican Independence Day, on September 16, is a bigger deal and celebration for the Mexican community.

"A lot of people think (Cinco de Mayo) is Independence Day … It's not a big deal in Mexico," Marquez Alvarez said. 

Mexican Independence Day, meanwhile, is the celebration commemorating the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence against Spanish rule. For that holiday, Marquez Alvarez noted, there is a big celebration in the Twin Cities that includes a parade, food and merchandise vendors and information about community groups and services in the area. 

History of Cinco De Mayo

Cinco De Mayo is not widely celebrated in Mexico outside of Puebla where the battle took place. Another misconception is Americans often mistake Cinco De Mayo as Mexican Independence Day, which is September 16, now a national holiday.

Cinco De Mayo is a day to celebrate the date of the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War according to History.com.

The battle lasted from daybreak to early evening when the French finally retreated.

Mexico was in debt in 1861 and under the rule of elected President Benito Juárez. The new president was forced to default on debt payments to European governments. France, Britain and Spain sent naval forces to Mexico, but Britain and Spain withdrew after negotiations with Mexico.

At the time Napoleon III was the ruler of France and decided to try to use this as an opportunity to create an empire out of Mexican territory. Late in 1861 a well-armed French fleet stormed Veracruz and forced Juárez and his government to retreat.

On May 5, 1862, 6,000 French troops under General Charles Latrille de Lorencez set out to attach Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico. From their new headquarters in the north General Ignacio Zaragoza gathered 2,000 troops and headed to Puebla. When the French finally retreated they had lost nearly 500 soldiers and fewer than 100 Mexicans had been killed in the battle.

The Battle of Puebla represented a great symbolic victory for the Mexican government and bolstered the resistance movement.

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is primarily observed in the state of Puebla, where Zaragoza’s unlikely victory occurred, although other parts of the country also take part in the celebration.

Traditions include military parades, recreations of the Battle of Puebla and other festive events.It is not a federal holiday, so offices, banks and stores remain open.

In the United States Cinco de Mayo is widely interpreted as a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with substantial Mexican-American populations.

Mexican-American activists raised awareness of the holiday in the 1960s.

Today,some of the largest festivals are held in Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston.

Reach Reporter Bailey Grubish at 507-837-5451 or follow her on Twitter @wcnbailey.

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