Cinco de Mayo history 1901 poster

A 1901 poster honoring the celebration of Cinco de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo. This holiday is noteworthy for a variety of reasons. But I appreciate its power to remind us of history—and to spur history-making in the present day.

First of all, be sure you understand that this is not “Mexico’s Independence Day—the most important national holiday in Mexico, celebrated on September 16.” Instead, it marks the Battle of Puebla: “During the French-Mexican War, a poorly supplied and outnumbered Mexican army under General Ignacio Zaragoza defeats a French army attempting to capture Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico.”

Charge of the Mexican Cavalry at the Battle of Puebla (image via Wikipedia)

Charge of the Mexican Cavalry at the Battle of Puebla (image via Wikipedia)

The Battle of Puebla may have been significant for two reasons:

“First, although considerably outnumbered, the Mexicans defeated a much better-equipped French army. ‘This battle was significant in that the 4,000 Mexican soldiers were greatly outnumbered by the well-equipped French army of 8,000 that had not been defeated for almost 50 years.’ Second, since the Battle of Puebla, no country in the Americas has subsequently been invaded by any other European military force.”

So while you consider the significance of the holiday, recall contemporary events. For example, it was only four short years ago when the Phoenix Suns put the occasion to an entirely different use—protesting the enactment of the Arizona immigration law dubbed SB1070. They did that by donning jerseys with the name Los Suns. Controversial, that.

I leave to others a discussion of the political power of the sports jersey (also used to great effect recently in the scandal regarding the LA Clippers owner).

However you celebrate Cinco de Mayo, recall that the goals of freedom and collective action have been a part of the day’s spirit since 1862.

Los Suns jersey worn by Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns in 2010

Los Suns jersey worn by Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns in 2010