Every May 5, thousands of people across the United States gather to celebrate Mexican culture through traditional folk dancing, Mariachi bands, margaritas, lively art and of course, Mexican cuisine.
But how many Americans enjoying their chilaquiles and pozole understand whythey’re celebrating? And why do more people hold festivities in the U.S. than they do in Mexico where the holiday originated?
Earlier in the week, a group of DTE Energy employees learned more about the significance of Cinco de Mayo in both Mexico and the United States, as they embraced Mexican-culture (without the margaritas, of course) at an employee-coordinated Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Not to be confused with Mexico’s Independence Day, which is recognized on September 16, Cinco de Mayo is a commemoration of Mexico’s victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla. In response to an owed debt, French troops invaded the small town of Puebla, Mexico, where an outnumbered Mexican army defeated the French and pushed troops out of the town. The French eventually overcame Mexico City, a much larger victory in the French-Mexican war, but the Battle of Puebla remained as a significant symbol of Mexico’s resistance to imperialism. It is not celebrated in many parts of Mexico but continues to be a major holiday for those in the Puebla region.
The holiday eventually made its way to the United States as members of the Chicano Movement, a civil rights movement for Mexican-Americans, used the holiday as a way to celebrate their culture and recognize the symbolism of Mexicans’ resiliency. AliciaFlores, a senior support specialist for DTE’s Planning and Design, said the holiday became a way for her and many others to stay connected to and feel proud of her cultural roots.
Flores and Jonathan Hernandez, DTE planner for Planning and Design, began the now 10-year DTE tradition, and have watched the celebration expand significantly over the years.
“It started with just bringing food,” said Flores, a 35-year DTE employee (if you count her merge from MichCon). “As it got bigger, we decided we should not only celebrate the holiday, but we should know why we’re celebrating.”
The event now has more than 40 volunteers, is fully-catered food, and has entertainment donated by local groups Salvador Torres Mariachi Mexico 2000 and Ballet Folkloric Mayocoyani Izel. It also includes a fun and comedic history lesson on the holiday by DTE professional surveyor Adolfo Castillo.
“It’s important to know that the event is possible not just because of me and Johnathan, but because of leadership who is open to establishing new traditions and team events that hold us together,” said Flores.
This is the final year for the DTE Cinco de Mayo celebration, as the team plans to merge the event with International Food Day in October. The hope is to continue to expand peoples’ awareness of cultures from around the world and celebrate diversity in the company through authentic dishes and traditions. The new event is still in its planning stage, but will hopefully continue to grow as the Cinco de Mayo celebration has.
As you prepare your festivities this Saturday, be sure to celebrate knowledgably and send your respect to our neighbors south of the border.