Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo…do you know what that means? Most people incorrectly associate this holiday with the celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day, but that is actually September 12th. Interestingly, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated more as a Mexican-American holiday than it is in Mexico, much like St.Patrick’s Day isn’t celebrated in Ireland to the same extent it is in the US. So, what does Cinco de Mayo commemorate?
In 1862, while the US was fighting the Civil War, Napoleon strategically invaded Mexico in an attempt to gain territory. In the state of Puebla, there was a major battle and although the small Mexican army was the underdog, they won the battle of Puebla on May 5th. For more information about the history and evolution of Cinco de Mayo, check out this interesting article, “When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Cinco de Mayo,” published today on time.com and written by professor José M. Alamillo of California State University Channel Islands.
Regardless of Cinco de Mayo being a lesser holiday in Mexican culture, it has gained a strong foothold in America over the last few decades (mostly due to the advertising campaigns of beer and alcohol companies, such as Corona) and is a very popular holiday. Personally, I think Cinco de Mayo is an opportunity to reflect on the cultural diversity of our country and teach our children about Mexican history and traditions. I am a big advocate of embracing individual cultural identity as well as the appreciation and celebration of multiculturalism.
I’ve recently been doing a lot of research on paper-cutting art and dug a little deeper into the beautiful tradition of Mexican papel picado, or paper-punching/ perforation. It turns out that this traditional art form is most heavily rooted in the Mexican state of Puebla, where Cinco de Mayo originates. The history of papel picado is an amalgamation between Asian, European, and Aztec (Pre-Columbian) techniques that over the centuries has evolved into something uniquely Mexican.
Almost every culture has some form of paper-cutting art form, which I plan to explore more through future blog posts. Today though, I would like to share with you a fun way for you to teach children about the art form of papel picado as a way to discuss the origins of Cinco de Mayo, how the holiday has evolved into a Mexican-American holiday, and the importance of cultural diversity and respect in our global society.
Artisans of Huixcolotla (Puebla, Mexico) Give Life to Papel Picado for Dia de Muertos (YouTube Video in Spanish from Puebla Noticias)
- Tissue Paper (in various colors)
“Cinco de Mayo is an opportunity to reflect on the cultural diversity of our country and teach our children about Mexican history and traditions. I am a big advocate of embracing individual cultural identity as well as the appreciation and celebration of multiculturalism.”
- Stack a variety of tissue paper colors and carefully cut to your desired size. I cut mine 8×12, in order to make 8x1o sheets, since the top 2 inches need to be reserved for folding over the string for hanging.
- Fold the stack of tissue paper accordion-style 3 times. Then, fold the stack upward, leaving 2 inches at top so that you know where to stop cutting design to leave space for folding the tissue paper over the string.
- Begin cutting designs by cutting on the folded edge, cutting the bottom edge, and folding horizontally in several spots to cut into the middle of the paper. I even opened my accordion, then folded in half to make a new central fold to cut on.
- Once you have made enough cuts in various sizes, shapes, and locations, unfold your papel picado.
- Now you are ready to start folding the individual sheets over the string and stapling the folds. Continue until you have created your desired length banner.
- Hang and enjoy your beautiful, colorful papel picado in honor of Mexican culture, heritage, and Cinco de Mayo!