How to Teach Kiddos the Truth About Cinco de Mayo

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mexican flag waving in the wind

As a parent of hispanic children, it’s important for my kids to learn about Cinco de Mayo and other holidays celebrating their heritage. It’s easy to get carried away on Cinco de Mayo with days full of folk dancing (baile folklorica in Spanish), margaritas, and mariachi music. But, as we’ve probably all witnessed, in America it’s thought of as Mexico Independence Day. However, it is not. Mexico Independence Day is really September 16, 1810. 

So what IS Cinco de Mayo? How can kids learn about Cinco de Mayo? With help from my husband’s family (who are Mexican), plus some online digging, I’ve put together what moms need to know and what they can do to clarify the meaning behind the holiday. 

What Parents Need to Know

Here’s the gist: Mexico owed Britain, Spain, and France money. Britain and Spain came to a mutual agreement with Mexico, but not Napoleon III of France. He decided he was going to make an empire out of Mexico and invaded in late 1861.

On May 5, 1862, General Ignacio Zaragoza led an assault against Napoleon’s forces in Puebla de Los Angeles, in what is now called “El Dia de la batalla de Puebla” in English, “The Day of the Battle of Puebla.”

An unlikely victory, Mexico forced France to retreat the same day they were invaded. France lost about 500 soldiers whereas Mexico only lost about 100.

dancing baile folklorica

Useful Resources

Unfortunately, Cinco de Mayo is often celebrated with heavy drinking and fun, with many people dressing in costumes, perpetuating stereotypes about Mexicans.

This year, teach your kids what really happened to Mexico. Although my kiddos are too young to fully grasp the concept, I’ve rounded up some useful links and resources for mamas and papas to use as teaching aides.

Here are some fun ways for your family to learn about and celebrate Cinco de Mayo!

Watch a video. This PBS video is only two minutes long, but packs an easy-to-understand and fun message.

Attend a festival. This fun festival at Carlisle Title in Fort Worth features live alpacas, a candy bar, piñata, margaritas, and more.

Participate in a fun run. This fourth annual fun run in Keller is a great segue to talk about resilience and determination like Mexican soldiers had while battling the French. 

Cook a traditional Mexican dish. Food speaks to heart and mind, so try these traditional Mexican recipes.

Take a road trip to the Mexic-Arte museum. Located in Austin, this museum provides education about traditional contemporary Mexican, Latino and Latin American arts and cultures. 

Celebrate virtually. Tune in to Mesquite’s Cinco de Mayo Virtual Celebration, which will include dancing, public speakers, and musical performances.

Read about the holiday. There are several children’s books that celebrate and clarify what happened May 5.

Check out these great websites. 

flying papel picada

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