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The magic of Cinco de Mayo

Mexican holiday celebrates a military victory that helped lead to independence

Posted: May 4, 2009 9:50 p.m.
Updated: May 5, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Three-year-old Jacob Issa of Newhall enjoys the Mariachi Magic Show put on by Rafael Gomez and Katia Lopez at the Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Public Library on Monday afternoon. In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, the pair of magicians performed for a group of kids and adults.

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Magician Rafael Gomez pulled a chicken out of thin air, seizing the attention of a room filled with awestruck children.

While mariachi tunes played in the background, Gomez twisted the chicken from side to side in a dance that enlisted giggles from those at the Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library on Monday.

Gomez and his magic partner, Katia Lopez, hosted the show partially in recognition of Cinco de Mayo, celebrated today, and Día de los Niños, which was celebrated April 30th to honor and celebrate children.

"We're celebrating Cinco de Mayo, telling kids what it is and at the same time trying to push books and let kids know about library cards," Gomez said.

More than 50 parents brought their children out for the show.

In the mix of materializing doves, flying tables and a talking whiteboard, Gomez took a minute to explain the significance of Cinco de Mayo to the kids.

"A long time ago in Mexico, the French wanted to take over the Mexican people," he said. "The people in a small town called Puebla kicked them out of there. It was a pretty big thing for them."

Cinco de Mayo, or fifth of May, in English, commemorates May 5, 1862, "the day that Mexican forces won a battle against an (invasion) force led by the French," Michael Ward, who teaches Latin American history classes at College of the Canyons, explained.
In late 1861, France began their efforts to take over and occupy Mexico. France was successful; however, on May 5, 1862, at the city of Puebla, Mexican forces were able to defeat an attack by the larger French army. Although the Mexican army was victorious over the French at Puebla, the French occupied Mexico a year later, Ward said.

"They lost the war, in a sense, but they won the battle of Puebla - a date that went in the direction of Mexico," he said.

Ironically, Ward said the day is not widely celebrated in Mexico. Ward speculates this could be that the military hero from the Puebla battle, General Porfirio Diaz, sold Mexican mining, land and resources to U.S. investors, damaging his reputation with Mexican nationals, Ward said.

It's a popular misconception that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence day. That actually is celebrated September 16.

"I think we've become more cogniscent of the fact that Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence," he said.

As for Ward's history students?

"They generally understand that it's not (a day to celebrate) Mexican independence, by they're not quite sure what it is," he said.
In recognition of Cinco de Mayo, the College of the Canyons associated student government will give away free tacos in front of the student center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today.

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