Why do we celebrate Cinco de Mayo (May 5th)?

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Narrator: Hey smarty pants, Trusty Narrator here. Take a listen to the music playing and see if you can guess where I am right now. Go ahead, shout it out. I heard a Mardi Gras Parade.
Excellent guess. I heard someone say, oh, at a Quinceanera. Another great guess.
Did anyone say my favorite family-owned Mexican restaurant? The one from the salsa episode of Who Smarted? If you did, you’re right.
But today is not just any day. It’s actually one of their most popular days of the year. And what day is that?

Why? It’s May 5th, otherwise known as Cinco de Mayo. Which in Spanish means, what smarty pants? Does it mean?
A- There’s mayonnaise in your sink?
B- Five jars of mayonnaise?
C- The release of Star Wars? Or
D- The 5th of May?
Why? Of course it means D, the 5th of May. Cinco, meaning five, and Mayo, meaning May. The big question I have about Cinco de Mayo is, why? What makes this day special and worthy of celebration? If only there was someone here who could help explain it all to us.
Guillermo: Bienvenido. Welcome back, trusty mi amigo. I’m so happy you’ve come to join us on this festive occasion.
Narrator: Hey! Hola, Guillermo. Great to see you as always. Not to mention, you’d know how much I love the food here. Especially your tacos, enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas, tortillas, tamales, flautas, and of course, the salsa. I’m just super excited the smarty pants and I could get a table in the restaurant today. This place is hopping.
Guillermo: Oh yeah, this is definitely one of the busiest days of the year, but we’ll always save a table for you and the smarty pants, trusty. Come; let me show you to your table. I believe it is your favorite table to sit at.
Narrator: Ah yes, right next to the chips and salsa station. You know me so well, Guillermo.
Guillermo: Si, I sure do. Here you go, trusty. A nice overflowing bowl of tortilla chips and double helping of our famous homemade salsa. A perfect snack for Cinco de Mayo.
Narrator: Or any day of the month. But since you mentioned Cinco de Mayo, and since today is Cinco de Mayo, perhaps you could help explain to me and the smarties listening, what makes this day so festive? Why Cinco?
Why De Mayo? Is it a big holiday or just a festive day? And is Cinco de Mayo considered Mexico’s Independence Day? Oh, and of course, are there any specific foods that are prepared special for Cinco de Mayo festivities?
Guillermo: Great questions, mi amigo. I’d be honored to share with you and the smarty pantalones the knowledge that has been passed down to me by my elders.
Narrator: Great, then it’s time for another whiff of ciencia, that means science in Spanish, and historia, which means history, on
Theme Song: Who Smarted? Who Smarted? Who’s smart? Is it you? Is it me? Is it science? Or history? Listen up, everyone. We make smarting lots of fun.

Narrator: Okay, Guillermo, let’s start our investigation into Cinco de Mayo with a basic question. What exactly are people celebrating on the 5th of May? True or false, smarty pants?
Cinco de Mayo is Mexican’s Independence Day, similar to the 4th of July in the United States. The answer is false.
Guillermo: Si, senor. Mexico’s Independence Day actually falls on September 16th, or dieciséis de septiembre. Aha. So, what does Cinco de Mayo celebrate?
Cinco de Mayo is a celebration that commemorates or remembers Mexico’s unexpected victory over France during the Battle of Puebla on May 5th in the year 1862.
Narrator: Ah, I did not know that. Tell us more, Guillermo.
Guillermo: The conflict between the two countries had started a year earlier when Benito Juarez, the new President of Mexico at the time, decided not to continue debt payments to several European governments that were lending Mexico money.
Narrator: Interesting. So, then what happened?
Guillermo: In response, Spain, Britain, and France decided to send naval forces to Mexico, insisting on repayment. Once they arrived, both Spain and government and withdrew their military. Adios.
Narrator: But not France?
Guillermo: Nope. Napoleon III, who ruled France at the time, saw this moment as an opportunity to establish an empire and chose to send in troops.
Yikes. So, how did Mexico respond? President Juarez pulled together what you might call a ragtag group of poorly supplied but very loyal soldiers, led by a Texas-born general named Ignacio Zaragoza.
It was in the city of Puebla where they were incredibly able to fend off thousands of French troops reclaiming the area. Whoa. This victory, known as the Battle of Puebla, became a motivating rallying cry for the overmatched Mexican army. Aha, and they rode that momentum to victory. Uh, no. They were soundly defeated and France would occupy the country for the next 5 years. Oh. However, with some assistance from the United States, Mexico eventually took their country back.
Narrator: Wow. There sure was a lot of back and forth between who ruled Mexico.
Guillermo: Oh yeah, and 50 years before that, Mexico had to revolt against Spain to regain its independence after nearly 300 years of Spanish rule.
Narrator: I didn’t realize Mexico had such a dramatic history. Did you, smarty pants? But I’m glad to be learning all of this from you. Also, if you don’t mind, Guillermo, could I get a little more salsa and chips? I seem to have eaten all of it.
Guillermo: You do love that salsa. Here you go, trusty. Eat up.
Narrator: Thanks. So, when did Mexico start celebrating this battle that took place on May 5th?
Guillermo: Well, that’s another interesting part of the story. Ironically, celebrating Cinco de Mayo pretty much started here in the United States by Mexican-Americans north of the border.
Narrator: Really? That is interesting. Where did this tradition start?
Guillermo: I could tell you. Or we could see if the smarty pantalones can guess which state the celebrations began.
Narrator: Nice, Guillermo. Okay, smarty pants. What state started the tradition of celebrating Cinco de Mayo?
Was it
A- Florida
B- New York or
C- California?
Guillermo: If you said C. California, estás en lo correcto. You’re right. Although the Battle of Puebla wasn’t considered a major strategic win in the overall war, it represented a symbolic victory for Mexico. And therefore, starting the next year, it became an incentive to raise money and recruit soldiers to continue the battle against the French, while also fighting for democracy here in the U.S. in opposition to the Confederacy.
Ah, yes. This was all happening around the time the United States was embroiled in a civil war between the Union Army and the Confederacy.
Gradually, Cinco de Mayo became a festive celebration in both countries, as a source of pride for Mexican Americans to celebrate their civil rights and mixed heritage.
Narrator: I like that. It’s a very inclusive day celebrating a mashup of different cultures. Guillermo, now that we have a better idea of the significance of Cinco de Mayo, what are some popular ways that people celebrate it?
Guillermo: Look around, trusty. People are eating and drinking Mexican foods and beverages, and dancing and singing to Mexican music. Of course, one of the largest celebrations takes place in Los Angeles, California. I wish you could see it yourself.
Narrator: Well, with this handy teleportation app and the magic of podcasting, I think I can. What do you say, smarty pants? Should we take a little trip?
Let’s see a thumbs up for yes. Uh-huh, I’m seeing a lot of thumbs. Guillermo, can someone cover you for a little bit?
Guillermo: Si, we brought on extra help for today.
Narrator: Great, then let’s head to Los Angeles to celebrate Cinco de Mayo right after this quick break.

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Narrator: Now back to Who Smarted? Okay, I’m here at my favorite Mexican restaurant with my friend and waiter, Guillermo. And we’re about to head out west to Los Angeles, California to see how Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in the state where it all began. Ready, G?
Guillermo: Ready, trustee.
Narrator: Okay, on three. Uno, dos, tres.
Wow. Everywhere I look, I see children wearing colorful costumes and they’ve got elaborate headdresses and sombreros on their heads. Very cool.
Guillermo: Si, senor. It’s quite beautiful. Or as they say in Spanish, bastante hermosa.
Narrator: There’s also a lot of folks waving flags too. Hey, Smarty Pants, can you guess which three colored vertical stripes appear on the Mexican flag? If you said green, white, and red, you’re right.
Guillermo: Muy bien. Very good. The green, verde, represents hope and victory.
The white, blanco, represents unity. And the red, rojo, pays tribute to the national heroes who fought for Mexico throughout the years.
Narrator: And in the center, there are two animals. Any idea what they are, Smarty Pants? One of them is actually a symbol of the USA.
Did you say an eagle? That’s right. And the second animal is…
Guillermo: That’s right, a snake. The eagle and snake in the middle of the Mexican flag have meant different things to different people throughout the years. But the usual interpretation is they are both strong animals locked in combat. The eagle is usually seen as good and the snake is bad. And since this snake is in the eagle’s mouth, it means good has triumphed over bad.
Narrator: Nice. Before, you mentioned that people like to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with food. And right now, I’m smelling something delicious. Oh yeah, there’s something cooking for sure. My stomach is suggesting we go check it out.
Guillermo: Absolutely. I see some people cooking in tents across the way. Come on, let’s head over.
Narrator: Say Guillermo, is there one particular food most associated with Cinco de Mayo?
Guillermo: I wouldn’t say there are traditional dishes specific to the celebration because the day represents the cultural diversity of Mexico and its people. However, since the day is about the Battle of Puebla, dishes that originate from the Puebla region can be found to best symbolize the celebration. Ah. So, what might those foods be?
Well, there’s Mole Poblano, which is a thick, savory chili and chocolate sauce that’s spread over all kinds of foods like enchiladas with chicken. Go on. Of course, because there are many influences from both Mexicans and Mexican-Americans when it comes to Cinco de Mayo, you’ll find most folks ordering a variety of foods like tacos, chalupas, fried tortillas with different fillings, and of course, lots and lots of beans, rice, and plantains.
Narrator: Oh boy, now my mouth is really starting to water, but the lines for the food here are really long. Should we wait?
Guillermo: We could. Or we could teleport back to the restaurant and you can order off our special Cinco de Mayo menu.
Narrator: Yes, let’s do that. Uno, dos, tres.
Ah, I’m back at my table in my favorite Mexican restaurant. You know what, Guillermo? I don’t even need to see the menu. Just bring me whatever you want. I know I’ll love it. You got it, trusty.
Oh, and just one other thing. See, I’m out of chips and salsa again. A two-headed shout out to Madeline and Henry in Massachusetts.

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You wrote to tell us how much you love Who Smarted? and Madeline said that both she and her brother learn a ton every time they listen. You also said you think the trusty narrator is pretty great. Ah, well, I think you’re both great and I’m glad to have you smarting with us.
This episode, Cinco de Mayo, was written by Dave Quesadilla-Davis and voiced by Chris Elote-Okawa and Jerry Colbert. Technical direction and sound design by Josh Habanero-Han. Who Smarted? is recorded and mixed at the Relic Room Studios.
Our associate producer is Max Chimichanga Kamaski. The theme song is by Brian Aros Suarez, with lyrics written and performed by Adam Tex-Max Davis. Who Smarted? was created and produced by Adam Tex-Davis and Jerry Colbert.
This has been an Atomic Entertainment production.
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Hey there, it’s trusty. And you know I love sitting at home listening to good podcasts. As much as I love going on adventures. And do I have a great one to recommend to all you Smarty pants and smarty parents from the award-winning GoKidsGo team. It’s called Snoop and Sniffy. What happens when Snoop, an experienced dog detective from London gets sent to small town Pflugerville to train clueless puppy sniffy as an undercover agent, mystery, advent and chaos.
Seriously, the town of Pflugerville isn’t Dogsville like Snoop expected, and he quickly realizes that he can’t handle all the action without sniffy by his side, even when they’re able to turn a blind eye to the alien. Superheroes and villains battling it out for control of Pflugerville, Snoop and Sniffy have their paws full, solving wild and wacky mystery cases on Bark Street. Do you love to laugh? Do you love animals? Do you have the brightest mind since Sherlock Holmes? Then tag along. There are already eight seasons of hilarious canine crimes to solve. Search for Snoop and Sniffy on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
[End of Transcript 20:04]

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