Cinco de Mayo is a day of celebration—and let’s face it, lots of good food and margaritas—for many Americans. So it’s probably an even bigger deal down in Mexico, right?
A little history
In reality, it’s much more laid back south of the border. Just ask David Persichetti-Gallegos, an Erie Insurance Agent at MMA Insurance in Pickerington, Ohio, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico in 1995.
“Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day—that is actually on Sept. 16,” he says. “On Cinco de Mayo, we celebrate the Mexican army’s victory over the French occupiers in the town of Puebla.”
The Battle of Puebla took place in 1862. It is still celebrated all these years later because of how unlikely the Mexican victory was. The French army was 8,000 strong and well-equipped while the poorly equipped Mexican army was just a little over half that size.
“When I was a child, we would recognize the heroes of the battle in our school,” remembers David. “At home, we’d have a small dinner with our family.”
David was 19 when he came to the United States. He admits he was surprised that Americans celebrated the Mexican holiday at all.
“I was impressed by the number people who knew about Cinco de Mayo,” he says. “However, many of them don’t know the correct history, so I always tell them what we’re really celebrating.”
David also invests time in helping his son David, 10, and daughter, Isabella, 7, understand the holiday.
“Keeping traditions alive and remaining strong in our culture is very important for me,” he says. “I read to them in Spanish and we celebrate all the Mexican holidays. On Cinco de Mayo, my wife and I have the family over and serve traditional Mexican food.”
One food that makes an appearance each year is dulce camote de Puebla (sweet potato candy of Puebla). This traditional treat consists of pureed sweet potatoes that are mixed with sugar then rolled in wax paper to resemble a cigar. Learn how to make it by following the recipe below.
Puebla’s Sweet Potato Candy Recipe
3 sweet potatoes, about 6 oz. each
1/2 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup of water
Peel the sweet potatoes and cook them in a saucepan of boiling water for 25 minutes. Drain and mash the hot sweet potatoes with the 1/2 cup sugar, butter and cinnamon.
Let the sweet potatoes cool. When they are cool enough to handle, use your hands to make a cigar shape, sprinkle them with a bit of sugar and wrap them in wax paper. You can eat them at room temperature, and they have shelf life about three days. Disfruta! (That’s Spanish for “Enjoy!”)