My courses with OU’s faculty in residence involved several field trips to locations in the state of Puebla and to the capital. One was to the Museum of the Serdan Brothers and Los Fuertes, or The Forts. Both were the sites of important conflicts during the Mexican Revolution. The Serdan family were revolutionaries who defended their home against the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz; their house is preserved today the same way it was the day they died, with bullet holes and shattered mirrors.
Los Fuertes is the battleground of the Battle of Puebla, the first great victory the Mexican Army had against invading French forces. Today, the fort the army defended is a museum. The surrounding area contains several more museums along with a cafe, a soccer stadium, and a park with a pond for paddleboats. The anniversary of the battle is celebrated as Cinco de Mayo.
Puebla is actually the only state in Mexico that celebrates Cinco de Mayo, and they do it with a long parade. In the city of Puebla, it’s more like Memorial Day than the bacchanalia that the USA has turned it into. Of course, other cities in the state of Puebla have their own celebrations. Some of them involve costumes styled after the china poblana, an enslaved Filipina woman whose elaborate clothing became an emblematic fusion of colonial and local cultures. Other towns fire blanks into the air during their parades, or create carefully-crafted whips that make a great deal of noise when cracked, or dress up as the soldiers who fought off the French. There’s a great deal of diversity in the celebrations, as there is in Mexico as a whole.