Cinco de Mayo: A Celebration Mexican Heritage

Cinco de Mayo: A Celebration Mexican Heritage

Cinco de Mayo dancers in Washington DCOften thought to be a traditional Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated much more widely in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Despite its lack of authenticity as a major Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo serves as an opportunity for families to explore Mexican culture, making for a day of delicious food, great music, and interesting hands-on activities.

Cinco de Mayo was first celebrated during the American Civil War, commemorating the 1862 Battle of Puebla, where the French Army was defeated by Mexican forces. Much less important than Mexico’s Independence Day, which is celebrated on September 16th, Cinco de Mayo now serves as a celebration of Mexican heritage in the United States – rather than an annual commemoration of a specific battle.

Instead of focusing on the war-related history of the holiday, families can spend Cinco de Mayo immersed in authentic Mexican culture. Before celebrating the holiday, do some reading and research together in order to begin understanding Mexican language and traditions. Books like Off We Go to Mexico!, What Can You Do With a Rebozo?, and P is for Pinata: A Mexico Alphabet offer young children a bilingual glimpse into life in Mexico, combining beautiful illustrations with descriptions of specific parts of Mexican culture. Older students can pair knowledge of Mexican culture with a look into Mexican history, using History News: The Aztec News, a book that teaches about Mexico’s ancient Aztec people in a fun-to-read mock newspaper format.

In order to truly learn about Mexican culture, it’s best not only to read and gather information but to participate in some Mexican traditions yourselves! Of course, there are always pinatas to be made, but there’s more to be learned by exploring an aspect of Mexican culture that’s less familiar. Children can learn about Mexican folk art by trying out amate, a traditional painting style in which artists draw images onto paper made out of fig bark and paint them with bright colors. In the kid-friendly version, families can use paper bags instead of bark, allowing for a similar aesthetic and making good use of recycled materials. Amate art dates back to pre-Hispanic times in Mexico (way before Spanish explorers ever found their way ashore), and remains a tradition today amongst the Otomi people of central Mexico.

Of course, no Cinco de Mayo is complete without delicious Mexican foods! Children can help out in the kitchen in order to create some Mexican dishes like mole poblano, chalupas, and chiles en nogada.. Not only will children get a mouthful of Mexican flavor after they’ve helped you cook, but they’ll get to practice reading skills, direction following, and basic math while they help cook, too! And while you’re in the kitchen, listen to the Cinco de Mayo Episode of the Hilltown Family Variety Show! Featuring Argentinian guest DJ Mariana Iranzi, the special holiday episode is a bilingual exploration of Mexican music.

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