Many people believe that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day, but that’s actually not the case! Cinco de Mayo is not a holiday that’s celebrated across all of Mexico—it’s actually a regional holiday celebrated in Puebla! The holiday commemorates the Mexican Army’s defeat of the French during the Battle of Puebla, which took place on May 5, 1862. Though outnumbered, the Mexican Army was able to defeat the well-equipped French Empire, and some scholars believe that this victory played an important role in the U.S. Civil War. Had the French won, they would have gone to the aid of the Confederacy, and some academics believe that the outcome of the Civil War would have been affected.
All that to say, Cinco de Mayo is a wonderful time to celebrate Mexican culture, and all the incredible ways it has influenced countries both near and far! From art, to music, food, and film, the fingerprints of Mexican culture can be seen in so many areas of our daily lives. We’ve collected a couple of our favorite films below showcasing Mexican figures and narratives, and we think they’re the perfect night cap to any Cinco gathering you may be having! After your guests leave, curl up on the couch and dive into the rich history of Mexico!
If you’re a history buff, this is the movie for you! Delving into the Battle of Puebla (as mentioned above), this 2013 film tells the story of the Mexican soldiers who put their lives on the line for their country. Starring Mexican actors Christian Vasquez, Kuno Becker, and Liz Gallardo, the film will give you a better understanding of the historical significance of Cinco de Mayo.
Mexican actress Salma Hayek transformed herself to become the larger-than-life surrealist painter Frida Kahlo for this 2002 biopic. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance, and the film went on to win two Oscars for both Best Makeup and Best Original Score. The film was a deeply personal project for Hayek, and it’s been praised as a beautiful testament to Kahlo’s tumultuous life.
This film explores the intricacies of the Mexican-American experience, through the eyes of Ana García (played by America Ferrera in her first feature role.) Very much a coming of age story, the film is based on a play by renowned Chicana playwright Josefina López. At the time of it’s release, the Sundance Institute applauded the film for giving “a voice to young women who are struggling to love themselves and find respect in the United States.”