Academics & Faculty

Cinco de Mayo Observance Is Important Because It Provides a Collective Identity for Latinos, Says UCLA Center


Cincode Mayo, the celebration of Mexico's victory over invading French troops in1862, is an important observance because it has reflected the changes anddevelopments in Latino communities throughout California for the past 145 yearsand because it was invented in California, according to a paper recentlypublished by the UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture.

"Cincode Mayo is important to Californiabecause it was invented here," said David E. Hayes-Bautista, director of thecenter and the paper's lead author. "It provides a collective identity for allLatinos, whether they were born here in Californiaor immigrated from Mexico,Central America or South America. It bindsthem together in an identity — it is as important to Latinos as the Alamo is to Anglo-Texans."

Thepaper by Hayes-Bautista and co-author Cynthia L. Chamberlin, the center'shistorian, appears in the spring edition of the Southern California Quarterlyand is titled "Cinco de Mayo's First Seventy-Five Years in Alta California: From Spontaneous Behavior to Sedimented Memory, 1862to 1937."

Theholiday commemorates the victory of Mexican troops over the invading French atthe first Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The second Battle of Puebla, foughtone year after the first, was a rematch between Mexican and French troops thatlasted more than two months. A desire to support Mexican President BenitoJurez and the Mexican troops galvanized Latinos in Californiaand produced a collective response that drew together Californios, Mexicanimmigrants, Central and South American immigrants, and their English-speakingchildren born in California.The first celebrations of the original Battle of Puebla were begun in 1863 in California.

Puebla eventually fell to the French after a two-month siege, but itsstruggle became a symbol of heroic resistance for Latinos in California.

Theholiday, which has been celebrated in Californiacontinuously since 1863, is virtually ignored in Mexico. Cinco de Mayo festivalshere are characterized by parades, patriotic speeches and picnics, along withthe prominent display of both the Mexican and U.S. flags.

"Cincode Mayo has been celebrated every year from 1863 until now, but today, thehistory has been lost," Hayes-Bautista said. "We remember it is important, butwe don't remember why. We wanted to bring back the history about why thecelebration began."

MerryOvnick, editor of the Southern California Quarterly, which published the paper,said, "The journal's focus is the history of Southern California, the state asa whole and the American West. This paper is a valuable contribution to ourreaders' understanding of the significance of Cinco de Mayo to Latinos and toall Californians."

About the UCLA Centerfor the Study of Latino Health and Culture

Since1992, the UCLA Centerfor the Study of Latino Health and Culture has been a resource for cutting-edgeresearch, education and public information about Latinos, their health andtheir role in California.Under the leadership of Hayes-Bautista, the center, part of the David GeffenSchool of Medicine at UCLA, has been the lead institution exploding myths andstereotypes about Latinos in Californiasociety, providing reliable data on Latino health, emphasizing the positivecontributions of Latinos to the state's economy and society, and informing thepublic about the important emerging Latino medical market.

About UCLA

UCLAis California'slargest university, with an enrollment of nearly 37,000 undergraduate andgraduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer more than 300 degreeprograms and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadthand quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuingeducation and athletic programs. Four alumni and five faculty have been awardedthe Nobel Prize.



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