Cinco de Mayo is an annual holiday that celebrates Mexico’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Cinco de Mayo is also a time to celebrate Mexican culture and heritage.
Contrary to what some people mistakenly believe, this holiday is not the same as Mexican Independence Day (which is on September 16). Instead, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the battle that took place when 6,000 French troops attacked Puebla de Los Angeles, a town in Mexico, and retreated when the Mexican army, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, fought back and won despite the fact that they were tremendously outnumbered. At the time, Mexico was struggling economically and France, which was ruled by Napoleon II, sought to take control over Mexican territory. Even though the victory at the Battle of Puebla was considered small, it symbolized the strength of Indigenous Mexicans and their resistance movement against European colonizers.
Cinco de Mayo has been widely celebrated in the U.S. since the 1960s and especially by the Mexican-American community. While it’s also observed in Mexico itself, the celebration is smaller there than it is in the United States. Celebrations include military parades, parties, festivals, dances, battle reenactments, and Mexican cuisine. Acknowledging the holiday in the office shows appreciation for the Mexican-American community and any employees of Mexican heritage. Even though the holiday has been commercialized by alcohol companies within the past few decades and seen as a day to enjoy tacos and drinks, it’s important to understand the historical and cultural significance of the holiday for an appropriate and respectful celebration.
To celebrate Cinco de Mayo authentically, take the time to educate yourself about how the holiday started and what it means for Mexican-Americans and Mexican immigrants and their history. Remember that the day is more than a festive celebration and also a day that honors Mexican soldiers who died defending their land. Make sure to share the history with your teammates who might not already be aware of what this holiday represents. When buying and consuming Mexican food, it’s best to choose Mexican-owned restaurants and shops. You can also donate to Mexican organizations and causes that support the community.
Some ideas for celebrating in the office include hanging Mexican flags and putting up decorations like piñatas, streamers, and artwork, or playing authentic Mexican music. However, if you’re not of Mexican background, avoid appropriating the culture by wearing sombreros, ponchos, and fake mustaches, as many American revelers do, as it can be seen as stereotyping and misrepresenting Mexican culture. Learn about cultural appreciation versus appropriation to be sure you are celebrating and acknowledging the holiday respectfully,
Celebrating Cinco de Mayo in the office will make your employees who are of Mexican background feel appreciated and included. And make sure to ask for their input on how they’d like to see the holiday celebrated. It will show that you respect their culture and are interested in learning about their history. It’s also an opportunity to teach and expose your staff to diverse cultures and festivities.