Modification Around the World: Cinco de Mayo in the US and Mexico

by Lorna
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modern Mexican American girl

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrated in both the United States and Mexico, primarily in the Mexican state of Puebla.  Contrary to popularized notions, Cinco de Mayo has nothing to do with Mexican independence, but was originally a celebration of Mexico’s victory over the invading French in the early 1860s.  In the US, this day of revelry gradually developed into a holiday celebrating Mexican arts and heritage.

During many Cinco de Mayo celebrations, traditional Mexican music will be played, art and paintings may be created or sold, and regional foods will be enjoyed.  Group performances and dances will be held in many communities, and culturally-driven stories or legends passed down via spoken word.  Traditional dress, including fresh flowers, often plays a primary role as well.

 aztec headdresses, traditional hairstyles, and cultural dancing

In recent years, as a cultural resurgence has begun to spread through much of North America, many Cinco de Mayo celebrations are developing common practices related to the more primitive roots of Mexican heritage.  Namely, Aztec and Mayan traditions.  Some of these include the making of drinks or foods such as pulque (agave alcohol), atole (spiced drinking chocolate), and mixiotes (thick stew cooked inside bundled leaves).  Other elements of ancient culture that are beginning to rise in popularity amongst the modified include the wearing of body jewelry items made from organic materials like wood and bone, and even the addition of tattooing as a part of the celebration.  Group tattooing as part of a night out is growing in prevalence across a range of holidays in the US, as tattooing in general has seen a rise amongst youths.

 Aztec heritage style piercings and tattoos

For the Aztecs, tattooing was often a communal practice performed during certain celebrations or rituals, and some elements of traditional Aztec tattoo art are beginning to show up more frequently in modern tattooing.  A few of these include the sun, the serpent, and the tribal mandala.  As Cinco de Mayo becomes more widely celebrated within the United States, such tattooing is finding a stronger foothold amid enthusiasts of culturally driven body art.

by Lorna

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