Cinco de Mayo salutes Mexican determination

COMPASS: Other points of view


Another Cinco de Mayo is here. And with it, parties full of icy margaritas and Mexican fare. Definitely it is a great opportunity to celebrate and have a good time, but do we really know the meaning behind Cinco de Mayo celebrations?

Contrary to what many people may think, Cinco de Mayo is not the Mexican Independence Day, which is actually celebrated Sept. 16. However, Cinco de Mayo, or the "Battle of Puebla Day" as we know it in Mexico, is truly significant for Mexican history and people's identity.

On May 5, 1862, the Mexican East Army (Ejército Mexicano de Oriente) under General Ignacio Zaragoza fought against the French, who entered Mexico to overthrow the government after the Mexican President Benito Juárez declared default on payments of the debt Mexico had with France, Spain and England. Mexico was not able to pay immediately because the country was going through recovery after an exhausting three-year civil war between liberals and conservatives.

Even though the French army was larger and better trained, it was defeated by the Mexican troops in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The victory and its commemoration symbolize the Mexican vocation of self-determination and serve as proof that anything can be achieved with unity and determination.

After 150 years, Puebla continues to be a place of determined, hard-working and enterprising citizens as exemplified by the Hernandez family, who were furriers in Mexico and arrived in Alaska in 1965 to expand their business. In the 50 years since their arrival, the Hernandezes have become leaders in the Alaska fur industry with a factory in Anchorage and stores in Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks, Sitka and Ketchikan. A fur gallery in Denali will open soon. Furthermore, they have opened factories overseas to continue with the fur tradition combining Alaskan elements with Mexican leadership.

Through their business, the Hernandezes not only promote the Alaskan fur tradition in the state and all over the world but also prove that the values that lay behind the Cinco the Mayo victory are still alive: Anything can be achieved with determination.

Adriana Ramirez-Aguilar is deputy consul at Consulate of Mexico in Anchorage.

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