Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico war victory

Are you thinking of celebrating Cinco de Mayo, or the Fifth of May, today?

Eduardo Valenciana is the go-to guy for information that honors the Mexican army’s defeat of the French army at The Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

He said that in the 1860s, Napoleon III of France wanted to conquer Mexico and have Austrian Archduke Maximilian Ferdinand lead the country.

“The forces of France and the forces of Democratic Mexico met in The Battle of Puebla. The Mexican forces were greatly outnumbered, but they were able to secure a miraculous victory,” said Valenciana.

Valenciana said even though Cinco de Mayo is not a huge holiday in Mexico, it has come to be known as the prime example of Mexican courage against all odds.

He pointed out that more Mexican-Americans have won the Medal of Honor than any other ethnic group in the United States.

That medal is the country’s highest military honor, awarded by Congress for risk of life in combat beyond the call of duty.

Valenciana, of Lihu‘e, said Cinco de Mayo celebrations are gaining in popularity.

“In 1970, Time magazine said that 9.3 million Hispanic-Americans were in the U.S. Last year, that number was 40 million,” he said.

“Mexican-Americans and new immigrants bring their history and traditions to this country, and one of those traditions is Cinco de Mayo,” said Valenciana.

Valenciana moved to Kaua‘i 26 years ago.

“I am happy that Cinco de Mayo has taken hold on Kaua‘i. But as a Mexican-American, I also embrace Boys Day, because I have three sons,” he said.

Boys Day, like Cinco de Mayo always the fifth day of the fifth month, is now Children’s Day in Japan and other places. In Japan, it is still a national holiday, and on Kaua‘i those of Japanese-American ancestry with sons in the home typically fly huge carp flags signifying the presence of male offspring.

Valenciana runs Tres Hermanos de Hawaii, a Web site that is completely in Spanish.

“Spread aloha. Learn Spanish,” he said.

He said according to the 2000 census, there are 8,872 Hispanic-Americans on Kaua‘i.

“That was seven years ago. The number has increased greatly,” said Valenciana.

He indicated that Hispanics come to Kaua‘i for the same reasons many other ethnic groups are here, and that Hispanics also want the same things that many other ethnic groups seek.

“We want a safe environment for our children. We are here not only looking for jobs, but also to be part of the positive forces in helping secure our Kaua‘i way of life,” said Valenciana.

Valenciana is from East Los Angeles.

“When I get back to Kaua‘i, I literally kiss the ground. I always want to be a part of the community,” he said.

“‘Viva la gente de Kaua‘i.’ That means ‘Hurray for the people of Kaua‘i.’”

On Kaua‘i today, a variety of bars and restaurants have Cinco de Mayo celebrations, with live entertainment including salsa dancing and music, specials on tequila, Corona Mexican beer, and more.

• Cynthia Kaneshiro, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or ckaneshiro@kauaipubco.com.

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