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Mexican culture in the United States: Cinco de Mayo and Día de los muertos


By Guadalupe Torres

As a Chicana, I have grown up in a Mexican culture environment, ranging from but not limited to parties, food, events, and music. I have also seen how the Mexican culture has been influencing the US culture from language, food, music, literature, amongst others. And it is not only the Mexican culture that is influencing the US culture but multiple Latin American cultures as well. It is important to state this because it is incorrect to say that all Latinas/os have the same culture, which is commonly misunderstood in the United States.

Every Latin American country has its own rich and unique culture and within every country there are different cultural traditions that are not practiced in other parts of the country. In this article I will talk about two main Mexican cultural events that have influenced the US culture and have been misunderstood; these are Cinco de Mayo and Día de los Muertos.

Cinco de Mayo is celebrating La batalla de Puebla (the Battle of Puebla) where Mexicans won the battle against the French army. In the United States, it is mistakenly thought about as Mexican Independence Day and it has been turned into a drinking holiday with little or no significance of its true meaning. However Mexican-American communities celebrate Cinco de Mayo bringing back the true meaning of this festivity by doing festivals with traditional folklore dances, music, and food.

El día de los muertos is celebrated on November 2. In the United States Día de los muertos is seen as the Mexican Halloween, which is incorrect. In this day Mexicans honor relatives who have passed away. Altars are made in their honor and their favorite things such as food and drinks are put on the altar knowns as ofrendas. Sugar skulls are made, people paint their faces like a skull and many dress up as a skeleton, but these all have a meaning. Painting their faces and dressing up as a skeleton demonstrates that everyone at some point will die and in the Mexican culture death is seen as something that is going to happen and that there should be no fear because death is not the end of a person’s life.

Mexican culture has been influencing the United States in many forms and one of them is by common festivities such as Cinco de Mayo and Dia de los muertos. These two festivities are only two of many misinterpreted cultural events that many celebrate in the United States. If one is going to celebrate a cultural event of another country it is important to be informed about it and to be respectful towards this culture.

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