Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.
Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo is an annual holiday celebrated primarily in the United States. While originally commemorating the Battle of Puebla in 1862, its celebration in Mexico was mostly limited to the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, who had participated in the battle as a younger man. After Diaz was ousted in the Mexican Revolution, the celebration of Cinco de Mayo was abandoned in Mexico but remained as an outlet for Mexican and Mexican-American pride in the United States. The following discussion questions can help your students talk about their feelings about this holiday and what it means to them. These questions are designed to be adaptable to the age and knowledge level of your specific students.
Questions about Historical Context
- Had you heard of Cinco de Mayo before this class? Have you ever celebrated Cinco de Mayo? How did you celebrate it? What did Cinco de Mayo mean to you?
- What was the significance of the Battle of Puebla? Why was France invading Mexico? What do you think the Mexican victory represented to the Mexican people? Why was this so important?
- Is it significant that a person who fought in the Battle of Puebla later became a president who ruled Mexico for almost 40 years? What does this tell us about why Cinco de Mayo became a national holiday in Mexico? How do dictators use national history to their advantage? Why do you think Mexico stopped celebrating Cinco de Mayo after this president was removed from office?
- Why do you think people started celebrating Cinco de Mayo in the United States? What does this tell us about the history of immigration and cultural exchange between the United States and Mexico? How long do you think the USA and Mexico have been sharing people, ideas, customs, and celebrations?
- Why does the history of Cinco de Mayo matter? Why is it important for us to understand the history and cultural background behind a holiday? Do you know what cultural appropriation is? Why is it important for us to be considerate of cultural holidays and festivals?
Questions about Modern Cinco de Mayo Celebrations
- If Cinco de Mayo isn't really used to commemorate the Battle of Puebla anymore, why do you think we still recognize it? Why do you think this is a major holiday in the United States, while almost nobody recognizes it in Mexico? How have you heard people talk about Cinco de Mayo before? What ideas do you associate with it?
- How can holidays become a way to celebrate a culture or cultural heritage? Do people use Cinco de Mayo to celebrate Mexican or Mexican-American history and culture? Why?
- What do you think would be some good ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo? How can we celebrate what this holiday means today?
- Can we celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the USA and still be respectful of the cultures this holiday is connected to? How can we use food or music or art or dance or books to help us celebrate Cinco de Mayo? How can we use this as a time to connect with people in our community?
- What else would you like to learn about Cinco de Mayo? How do you think we can learn about these things?
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