The Story Behind Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

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Cinco de Mayo, which means May 5 in Spanish, is probably one of the most misunderstood holidays that Americans celebrate. In fact, Cinco de Mayo isn’t even a holiday, Mexican or American. May 5th isn’t even Mexico’s Independence Day. That is celebrated on September 16.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the French forces of Napoleon III on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla. Mexico had trouble paying back war debts to European countries, and France had come to Mexico to collect that debt.  The French army, under General Charles Latrille de Lorencez, led 6,000 French troops out to attack Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico. From his headquarters in the north, Mexican President Benito Juarez rounded up a motley force of 2,000 loyal men and sent them to Puebla.

The Battle of Puebla lasted from daybreak to early evening when the French finally retreated after losing nearly 500 soldiers.  Fewer than 100 Mexicans had been killed in the clash. Although not a major strategic win in the overall war against the French, the success at the Battle of Puebla on May 5th represented a great symbolic victory for the Mexican government and strengthened the resistance movement. In 1867 – thanks in part to military support and political pressure from the United States, which was finally in a position to aid its besieged neighbor after the end of the American Civil War – France finally withdrew.

Within Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is primarily observed in the state of Puebla, although other parts of the country also take part in the celebration.  Traditions include military parades, recreations of the Battle of Puebla and other festive events.  It is not a federal holiday, so offices, banks and stores remain open.

Today, Cinco de Mayo is more of an American celebration than a Mexican holiday.  A celebration that includes parties, mariachi music, Mexican folk dancing, Mexican food and probably a few margaritas.

United States Flag Store is here to answer all your questions.  Feel free to give us a toll free call at 1-877-734-2458 or email us at support@onlinestores.com.

Flag of the Canary Islands

The flag of the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands was officially adopted on August 16, 1982. The flag is rectangular with three vertical stripes. One left side is a white stripes, a blue stripes is in the center, and a yellow stripes is on the right side. In the center of the flag is the coat of arms of the Canary Islands.

The flag was designed in the 1960s during the Canary Islands Independence Movement, or the Movement for the Independence and Self-determination of the Canaries Archipelago. The movement largely used violence to attempt to achieve independence for the Canary Islands from the Spanish government by force.

Carmen Sarmiento and her two sons, Arturo and Jesus, all activists in the Canary Islands Independence Movement, designed the flag of the Canary Islands on September 7, 1961. The family made approximately 3000 flags on paper ribbons and distributed them the following day at the “fiesta of the Virgin Mary of Pino.”

The flag of the Canary Islands combines the colors of two of the archipelago’s provinces. The province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (making up the western part of the Canary Islands) flew a blue and white flag; and the province of Las Palmas (making up the eastern part of the Canary Islands flew blue and yellow flag. According to some traditions, the white color represents the water that comes off of the mountains, the yellow represents the yellow canary songbird, and the blue represents the celestial blue sky.

The coat of arms of the Canary Islands consists of a blue shield with seven islands inside. Two dogs, in Latin called Insularia Canaria, support the flag, and are thought to depict a large breed of fierce dogs from which the Canary Islands archipelago gets its name. A red crown sits on top of the shield and the word “Oceano” waves on a ribbon over the top.

Flag of Guatemala

The original flag of Guatemala was adopted on August 17, 1871, and the current version was adopted in 1968. The flag is rectangular and divided into three vertical fields. The left and right fields are sky blue and the center field is white with the Guatemalan coat of arms in the center.

The blue and white colors on the flag of Guatemala represent the original colors used by the Federal Republic of Central America: a republican democracy that spanned what is now Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and the Mexican state of Chiapas. The blue stripes on the side of the flag also represent the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the two large bodies of water that border Guatemala. The white symbolizes peace and purity.

In 1968, the Guatemalan coat of arms was added to the center of the flag. The coat of arms contains five main elements. The bird is the Resplendent Quetzal, and is a species distinct to Central America and also symbolizes liberty. The scroll contains the phrase, “Libertad 15 de Septiembre de 1821,” meaning “September 15, 1821 is that date of Central America’s independence from Spain.” The crossed rifles with bayonets represent the Guatemalan people’s willingness to defend their country by force if necessary. The crossed swords represent honor and the laurel branches, common to many coats of arms, signify victory.

Guatemala used several different flags between its independence from Spain in 1821 and the adoption of its current flag. When Guatemala was part of the Federal Republic of Central America (1825-1838), it flew a blue and white tricolor flag, but with horizontal stripes instead of vertical stripes. After the dissolution of the Federal Republic, Guatemala flew the same tricolor but with a different coat of arms in the center until 1851. When a pro-Spanish faction took over Guatemala in 1851, red and yellow stripes were included in the Guatemalan flag until 1871.

Flag of Algeria

The flag of Algeria was adopted on July 3, 1962, when the country gained independence from France. The flag is rectangular and divided vertically into two fields.  The left field has a dark green background and the right field has a white background.  Intersecting the two fields, in the center of the flag, is a red star and crescent.

The colors of the Algerian flag have symbolic meaning. As with many countries, the white symbolizes peace.  The green part of the flag represents nature.  The star and crescent were widely used in parts of the ancient Mediterranean regions and also in parts of Asia.  Today, the star and crescent combination is most commonly recognized as the emblem of Islam, and the star and crescent appear on the Algerian flag for these reasons.  Although the star and crescent are often green, the red star and crescent on the Algerian flag represent the blood of the many soldiers that were killed fighting for Algeria’s independence from France between 1954 and 1962.

The detailed history of the Algerian flag is somewhat unclear. The colors in the flag—white, red, and green—are used in the flags and emblems of many Islamic nations.  The best explanation of the Algerian flag’s design is that it is a combination of two flags used in what is now the country of Algeria.  The flag of the Algerian Regency, which governed the area from the sixteenth until the nineteenth century, had a red background with a white star and crescent in the center.  In the nineteenth century, Prince Abdel Kadir, an Algerian Islamic scholar and political and military leader, led a French resistance movement flying a flag with two vertical stripes, one green and one white.  It is also possible that Messali Hadj, an Algerian nationalist, designed the Algerian flag in the late 1920s.

Flag of Bulgaria

The current flag of Bulgaria was adopted in 1991 when Bulgaria’s Constitution was readopted, although the original Bulgarian flag was adopted when Bulgaria gained independence following the Russo-Turkish War.  The flag is rectangular with three horizontal stripes: a white stripe on the top, a green stripe in the middle, and a red stripe on the bottom.

The red and white stripes on the Bulgarian flag represent the pan-Slavic colors: red, white, and blue.  When the Bulgarians designed their flag, however, they chose a green stripe in place of the traditional pan-Slavic blue to represent freedom.

Since the Bulgarian flag’s adoption in 1879, the flag has existed in two versions: with and without the emblem of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria.  In 1879, after Bulgaria gained its independence during the Russo-Turkish War, the Tarnovo Constitution mandated that the Bulgarian flag consist of a horizontal tricolor with white, green, and red stripes. When Bulgaria was under the rule of the Bulgarian Communist Party and known as The People’s Republic of Bulgaria, the country used a horizontal tricolor flag with the emblem of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria placed on the left corner of the white stripe.

The emblem of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria depicts a rampant lion surrounded by a wreath of wheat. Above the lion is a red five-pointed star.  Below the lion are the dates 681 and 1944.  Asparunkh, ruler of the Bulgar tribe during the 7th century, founded the First Bulgarian Empire in 681. The Fatherland Front, a Bulgarian resistance movement that led to the start of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, took control over Bulgaria in 1944, at the end of the World War II.

In 1991, the new Constitution of Bulgaria again mandated that the flag of Bulgaria be a simple horizontal tricolor of white, green, and red; and the emblem of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria was removed.

Flag of Catalonia

The flag of Catalonia is known as the senyera (“signal flag” in Catalan) and is one of the oldest European flags still in use today. The flag is a rectangular shape with four red horizontal stripes equally spaced on a golden background.

The colors of the flag of Catalonia have their roots in the coat of arms of the Crown of Aragon, which consists of a golden shield with four red stripes and a jeweled crown on top.  According to a legend from the fourteenth century, in 897, when Barcelona was under siege by the Moors, King Charles the Bald drew four red stripes with his blood-drenched fingers as an act of gratitude on the Count of Barcelona’s golden shield. Although scholars debate the legend’s validity, the red blood and golden shield depicted in the tale influenced the colors for the Crown of Aragon’s coat of arms.  The red and golden colors are used in the flags of four of Spain’s autonomous communities: Catalonia, Aragon, the Balearic Islands, and Valencia.

The origin of the actual senyera is, again, debated as scholars argue over whether the flag has its roots in the Catalan or Aragonese region of Spain.  The Gran Encyclopedia Catalana argues that the senyera first appeared in the tomb of Ramon Berenguer II, a count of Barcelona who died in 1082.  Advocates for the Aragonese theories argue, however, the flag was first found in the seal of Alfonso II of Aragon in 1159.

Catalonia is an autonomous community of Spain, one of seventeen self-governing regions in the country. Catalonia is in the northeast region of Spain and is bordered by France to the north. The area consists of four provinces: Barcelona (the capitol), Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona.  Although the history of this region dates back to the eighth century, Catalonia has only been an autonomous region since August 9, 2006.

Flag of Zimbabwe

The flag of Zimbabwe was adopted on April 18, 1980, when Zimbabwe’s status as an independent nation was officially recognized.  The flag is a rectangular shape with seven horizontal stripes of green, yellow, red, and black.  From the stripes are in mirror image order and are arranged in the following order from top to bottom: green, yellow, red, black, red, yellow, green.  On the left side of the flag is a white triangle with a black border.  Inside the white triangle is a soapstone bird behind a red star.

The colors of the flag of Zimbabwe have symbolic meaning similar to many African countries that use the pan-African colors.  The green stripes symbolize the products of the agricultural and farming areas of Zimbabwe.  The yellow stripes symbolize Zimbabwe’s mineral resources.  The red stripes toward the center of the flag symbolize the blood of the many Zimbabweans that fought in the First and Second Chimurenga wars.  Chimurenga means “revolutionary struggle” in Shona, a Bantu language.  The First Chimurenga was fought between 1896 and 1897 against the British colonial rule and the second was fought between 1966 and 1980 against the Rodesians, a white minority regime in Zimbabwe.  Finally, the black stripe on the flag symbolizes the Zimbabweans’ native African heritage and ethnicity.

The triangle and images inside it also have symbolic meaning.  The white triangle symbolizes peace.  The red star represents the Zimbabweans’ hope and optimism for the future, but it also stands for the country’s socialist ideals.  The Zimbabwean bird in front of the red star is a depiction of a soapstone bird and is the national emblem of Zimbabwe.  The bird was carved on the walls of the ancient Great Zimbabwe in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries.  The walls on which the bird is carved formed the largest ancient stone construction in Zimbabwe.  The bird is a bateleur eagle and can be found on the Zimbabwean flag and coat of arms.

Flag of Serbia

The flag of Serbia was adopted on August 16, 2004. It is a rectangular flag with three horizontal stripes of equal width: the top stripe is red, the middle stripe is dark blue, and the bottom stripe is white. Centered vertically, towards the left side of the flag is the lesser coat of arms of Serbia, which features a red background with a white double-headed eagle, Serbian cross between four silver fire steels, two fleurs-de-lys, and a crown at the top.  The colors blue, red, and white, represent the pan-Slavic colors and are featured in many countries’ flags near Serbia.

The origins of the Serbian flag date to 1281.  This flag was flown under the rule of Stephen Vladislav I of Serbia and consisted of two horizontal stripes: the top stripe was red and the bottom was blue. A map from 1339 depicts of a different flag, however. This flag, flown under the rule of Stephen Uros IV Dusan of Serbia, features a red double-headed eagle on a golden background, similar to the Serbian coat of arms.

In the early nineteenth century, many flags were used in Serbia, some using the double-headed eagle in various colors and others using the pan-Slavic colors.  In 1835, however, the Sretenje Constitution standardized the Serbian flag, mandating that the official flag would contain three horizontal stripes of red, blue, and white.  Critics of the flag and the constitution thought the flag was too similar to Russia’s flag and the flag of the French Revolution, but the tricolor base remained.

The red, white, and blue stripes have been the foundation of the flag, but several variations have been used during the last two centuries.  From 1892 until 1918, during the Kingdom of Serbia, the royal coat of arms was included in the center of the flag.  After World War II, during the Socialist Republic of Serbia, the flag contained a red star in the center.  Following the fall of the communist regime, Serbia’s flag was a plain tricolor until 2004, when the lesser coat of arms was included.

Flag of Ireland

The flag of Ireland was officially adopted in 1919 when Ireland gained its independence from Great Britain. The flag is rectangular with three vertical stripes: a green stripe on the left side, a white stripe in the middle, and an orange stripe on the right.

The colors and design of the Irish flag have clear symbolism and historical context. The green stripe on the flag represents the Gaelic tradition, the majority of Ireland’s population and the group of revolutionaries that fought for Ireland’s independence.  The orange stripe stands for William of Orange—the king of England and Ireland—and his supporters.  These supporters were overwhelmingly Protestant, loyal to the British government, and often found conflict with the Gaelic Irish majority.  The white in the center represents a truce, and more importantly, peace, between the two major Irish traditions.

The origin of the Irish flag dates back to the rivalry between the Gaelic and Orange Irish traditions.  The Gaelic Irish began using a green flag with a harp on it in the mid seventeenth century, and shortly after, the color green—and the harp—became widely associated with the Gaelic people.  The Protestants, who organized the Orange Order, founded their kingdom in 1795, and the two traditions fought each other in the Irish Rebellion of 1798.  In the mid-nineteenth century, many Irish nationalists began to spread the idea of making peace between these two traditions in order to have an independent Irish nation.

The use of green, white, and orange colors together was first exhibited during the French Revolution, when Irish supporters wore cockades, rosettes, and badges featuring this tricolor to celebrate.  In 1848, a group of French women gave the first version of the Irish flag to Thomas Francis Meagher, a Young Ireland leader, and he displayed the flag from publicly for the first time during a public address celebrating the French Revolution. Although the tricolor flag was often displayed alongside the French tricolor during this period, the green Gaelic flag was most often used until the Easter Rising, which began the Irish revolution in 1916.

Flag of Russia

The flag of Russia was originally adopted in 1896. The flag was in use until the October Revolution of 1917, banned from use during the Communist era, and then readopted on December 11, 1993.  The Russian flag is a rectangular flag with three horizontal stripes of equal size: a white stripe on the top, a blue stripe in the middle, and a red stripe on the bottom.

Historians argue over the historical origins of the Russian flag, but two tales of the flag’s beginnings remain the most prevalent.  According to one legend, a Dutch sailor was sailing a Russian ship and was unsure what flag to sail on the boat.  He asked the Boyar Duma, a council that advised Russia’s princes and tsars in the seventeenth century, what his ships flag should look like.  This issue had never arisen before, and the Boyar Duma asked the sailor for his opinion. The Netherlands had already adopted its flag—a horizontal tricolor with a red stripe on the top, white in the middle, and blue on the bottom—and the sailor brought red, white, and blue fabric on to the ship. He designed another tricolor, similar to the flag of the Netherlands, but with a different arrangement of the stripes.

The second tale claims that Tsar Peter the Great visited Archangel, a city in northeastern Russia, several times in 1693 and 1964 to study European shipbuilding.  The tsar ordered a Dutch-built ship in 1693, and when it was finished, it had a Dutch flag flying from the back. In need of a Russian naval flag, the tsar changed the arrangement of the stripes on the Dutch flag to create a Russian banner.

Both tales of the flag’s origin support the Dutch flag’s influence on the Russian flag. Red, white, and blue colors can also be found on the Grand Duchy of Moscow’s coat of arms, which depicts St. George wearing white armor with a blue cape, riding a white horse, and holding a blue shield in front of a red background.

As with the origins of the Russian flag, there are several interpretations of the meaning of the colors of the Russian flag. One theory holds that the colors of the Russian flag represent the Russian monarchical social system in which the white represents God, the blue represents the Tsar, and the red represents the peasants.  Another interpretation argues that the colors represent the three main geographical regions of Russia: the white represents Belarus or White Russia, the blue represents the Ukraine or Little Russia, and the red represents Great Russia.  Finally a third interpretation argues that the white stands for hope for the future, the blue stands for the present, and the red stands for the bloodshed in Russia’s past.