May 5: Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo (May 5, 1862) originated as a time to celebrate freedom from colonialism and the longstanding fight for democracy in Mexico and the United States. To Mexican communities in the United States, victory in the battle of Puebla, Mexico during the French conquest of Mexico was seen as parallel to the fight against the confederacy in the United States and marks the purpose of its earliest celebrations in California.
Later, in the 1940s the celebration of Cinco de Mayo became a source of cultural pride in tandem with the Mexican-American civil rights movement, but began to lose cultural focus soon after. In the 1970s and 1980s, Mexican restaurants appropriated the celebration to sell food and alcohol.
Today in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is only considered a holiday by some but isn’t recognized federally. In the city of Puebla the famous battle is re-enacted and celebrated with music and fireworks. In the United States in recent years, communities with ties to Puebla are reclaiming the observance from consumerism by honoring the resilience and spirit of Mexico by celebrating Puebla history, art, food and literature.
Learn more about Cinco de Mayo:
May 17, 2023: International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia
May 21, 2023: World Day for Cultural Diversity
World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development was created by UNESCO back in 2001 and is celebrated each year on May 21 to foster peace and sustainable development through intercultural communication.
In 2015, the United Nations adapted the celebration into their 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with 17 key goals supporting and encouraging ongoing diverse collaboration of cultures.
May 29, 2023: Origins of Memorial Day
Many understand Memorial Day to be a time to commemorate the fallen veterans of all wars and conflicts. Its origin began as “Decoration Day” after the American Civil War where over half a million lives were lost.
Although the birthplace of the federally recognized holiday is contested, the U.S. government declared the annual commemoration began in Waterloo, New York in 1866 with people laying flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers. Recently, however, historians such as David W. Blight state that formerly enslaved people decorated soldiers’ graves the previous year - a historical truth often incorrectly documented and suppressed by White Charlestonians.
In Blight’s book “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory,” he suggests the first commemoration took place in Charleston, South Carolina on May 1st in 1865 after many soldiers were buried in unmarked graves. To give the soldiers a proper burial, two dozen African American Charlestonians shifted and organized the graves into rows circled by a fence and archway marked “Martyrs of the Race Course” in preparation for remembrance.
On the day of commemoration, 10,000 mainly Black residents held a parade, sang songs, delivered speeches and sermons, and ended with a Union regiment march. It was described by the New York Tribune as “a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before” and now many people believe and honor this as the actual first Memorial Day remembrance.