The Story Behind Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

April 18, 2018

Mexico 4ft x 6ft Nylon Flag with Pole Hem Only - Banner

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.

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Flag of the Canary Islands

December 23, 2010

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

December 20, 2010

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

November 4, 2010

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

November 2, 2010

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

November 1, 2010

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

October 28, 2010

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.