5 facts about Cinco de Mayo you should know (but probably don’t)

10 Facts About Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo in the U.S. is widely known as a celebration of Mexican-American culture filled with margaritas, tacos and tons of fun.

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But before you prep an at-home fiesta, you may want to brush up on what the holiday is truly about.

Here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about Cinco de Mayo:

May 5 is not Mexico’s independence day.

A military parade makes its way through the main square during the independence day celebration September 16, 2002 in Mexico City, Mexico. Mexico is celebrating 192 years of independence from Spain.

Credit: Susana Gonzalez

Credit: Susana Gonzalez

The date is still widely misunderstood as Mexico’s independence day, but Cinco de Mayo is actually a celebration of the surprising Mexican army’s victory over France at the 1862 Battle of Puebla.

According to History.com, the Mexicans were both vastly outnumbered and poorly supplied as they prepared for the French.

But in the end, nearly 500 French soldiers died and less than 100 Mexicans were killed. While the victory wasn’t a major win in the overall war (the French won the next year and occupied the region for five years), it represented “a great symbolic victory.”

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The battle stems from Mexico's immense debt to France in the early 1860s, which led to Napolean III's decision to send troops to not only overtake Mexico City, but also to help form a Confederate-friendly country that would neighbor the South, according to Time.

Independence Day in Mexico, when it gained its independence from the Spanish colonial government in 1810, is commemorated on Sept. 16.

Cinco de Mayo isn’t all that popular in Mexico.

Mexicans celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a reenactment of the 1862 battle between the French and the Zacapuaxtlas Indians May 5, 2001 in Puebla, Mexico.

Credit: Susana Gonzalez

Credit: Susana Gonzalez

The holiday is primarily celebrated in Puebla, where the 1862 battle took place. There, locals gather for a big, colorful parade and reenact the war dressed as French and Mexican soldiers before breaking out in song and dance after the reenacted victory.

But for many Mexicans, it’s just another day.

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How did the holiday get so popular in the U.S.?

A tourist has her picture taken with "Killer" a Chihuahua/Doberman mix and his owner Joseph Martinez as they attend Cinco de Mayo festivities on May 5, 2010 in downtown Los Angeles, California.

Credit: Kevork Djansezian

Credit: Kevork Djansezian

The holiday's popularity began as the unlikely Battle of Puebla Mexican victory reached California-based Latinos, many of whom were not only happy about Mexico's victory, but had been rooting for Union forces in the Civil War at the same time, Time reported.

As California Latinos found out, they formed a network of patriotic organizations to raise money for the Mexican troops.

"They had to kind of make the case for fighting for freedom and democracy and they were able to link the struggle of Mexico to the struggle of the Civil War, so there were simultaneous fights for democracy," Jose Alamillo, a California professor of Chicano studies, told Time.

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Former president Franklin D. Roosevelt’s enactment of the Good Neighbor Policy in 1933 is also considered part of the holiday’s popularization.

But the party-filled Cinco de Mayo Americans celebrate today didn’t become popular until U.S. beer companies began targeting the Spanish-speaking population in the 1970s and 1980s, Alamillo said.

Today, Cinco de Mayo in the U.S. is primarily a celebration of Mexican-American culture.

How many Mexican-Americans are there in the U.S.?

Mexican immigrant Nieves Ojendiz holds her 4-year old daughter Jane as she attends an immigration reform rally with members and supporters of the New York Immigration Coalition, June 28, 2016 in New York City, New York.

Credit: Drew Angerer

Credit: Drew Angerer

According to the U.S. Census, estimates of the U.S. Hispanic population as of July 1, 2018 was 59.9 million — 18.3% of the country's total population.

And as Pew Research reported, Mexicans are the largest population of Hispanic origin in the U.S., accounting for 62% of the nation's Hispanic population in 2017.

Ten states, including Georgia, have a population of 1 million or more Hispanic residents, according to 2015 data from Pew Research.

Americans consume a crazy amount of avocados on Cinco de Mayo.

Avocados lie on display at a Spanish producer's stand at the Fruit Logistica agricultural trade fair in Berlin, Germany.

Credit: Sean Gallup

Credit: Sean Gallup

According to Forbes, Americans eat 81 million pounds of avocados on Cinco de Mayo.

This is great news for Mexico’s economy, considering 82 percent of America’s avocados come from Mexico.

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USA Today reported in July 2019 that, avocado prices skyrocketed due to increased global demands, seasonal production in Mexico and a combination of supply and demand.

That price increase trickled to grocery stores, too.

The average price of a Haas avocado in the U.S. was $2.10 on July 5, 2019 compared to $1.17 on July 6, 2018, according to a Department of Agriculture weekly retail price report obtained by USA Today.

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