Cinco de Mayo: Celebrating the Traditions of Mexico (Holiday House, 2008)
By Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith
Photographs by Lawrence Migdale
(32 pp.; hardcover, $16.95)
Book review by Daniel Olivas
As Hoyt-Goldsmith notes, Mexican immigrants make up one third of the 33.1 million immigrants in the United States according to the last census. Thus, it is not surprising that the Mexican celebration, Cinco de Mayo, is observed by Mexicans and non-Mexicans alike in California and other southwestern states. But many celebrants do not understand the meaning of Cinco de Mayo and often think it is Mexico’s independence day, which it is not. For this reason, Hoyt-Goldsmith’s entertaining but educational book should be required reading for children and their parents who wish to know more about Cinco de Mayo.
Nicely illustrated with color photographs by Lawrence Migdale, Hoyt-Goldsmith uses a young girl, Rosalba Rosas, and her family in northern California to explain the history and traditions of the Cinco de Mayo celebration. Hoyt-Goldsmith explains that September 16 is actually Mexican independence day which commemorates Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821. Cinco de Mayo, however, marks the date of May 5, 1862, the date that the Mexican poorly-equipped army defeated the French in an important battle in the town of Puebla. The French had invaded because Mexico was unable to pay back a large debt. Though the French army eventually prevailed with Napoleon installing a relative, Maximillian, to rule the country, Mexicans eventually ousted the French four years later.
Hoyt-Goldsmith offers a concise historical context with an explanation of the foods, songs, dances and other celebratory elements of Cinco de Mayo. The book includes a glossary of Spanish words and an index. This is a must-have for any school library.
[This review first appeared in the MultiCultural Review.]