Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May as we say in English, is a celebration held annually on that date in the United States and regionally in Mexico. In Mexico the day is primarily celebrated in the state of Puebla, here the holiday is called El Dia de la Batalla de Puebla (The Day of the Battle of Puebla). In the US, this date is observed as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride, and to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War. In the state of Puebla, the date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 – which means that this year celebrates the 150th anniversary of Cinco de Mayo. Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico Independence Day, that national holiday is in fact celebrated on September 16.

The Battle of Puebla was important for two primary reasons. First, although considerably outnumbered and less-equipped, the Mexicans defeated a French army that had not been defeated for almost 50 years. Second, it was significant because since the Battle of Puebla, no country in the Americas has been invaded by any other European military force. There are plenty of reasons to celebrate this holiday, and in the spirit of all things Mexican I want to share with you my favorite things that originated in the land of enchantment.

Cinco of My Favorite Things That Originated in Mexico:

1. Chocolate

You thought the Swiss invented chocolate? Think again… The earliest documented use of cacao is around 1100 BC, traced back to the Aztecs who originally invented the treat as a celebratory, bitter-tasting beverage. Cacao seeds were used to make ceremonial beverages consumed by elites of the Aztecs, while also being used as a form of currency. It was an important luxury commodity in Mexico before European invaders arrived and discovered the cacao bean, which is now the basis of the modern chocolate industry.

2. Tequila

Tequila production originated in the 16th century, in the city of Tequila (hence the name..). The liquor is made from the native blue agave plant,  and is considered North America’s first indigenous distilled spirit. Commercial production begun in 1795 by Spanish Don Jose Maria Guadalupe Cuervo, whose name might ring a bell? The Jose Cuervo brand continues to be one of the most popular brands of Tequila today. Tequila is becoming increasingly popular worldwide, and 48.5%of all tequila produced in 2008 was exported from Mexico, with 72% being sent to the United States. A lot of that tequila will be consumed tomorrow…

3. Guacamole

Guacamole was made by the Aztecs as early as the 16th century. The name comes from an Aztec dialect; āhuacamolli, which literally translates to “avocado sauce”.

4. Queso Fundido

The ultimate cheese-lover’s dish, queso fundido, directly translated to “molten cheese”, originated in the borderlands of northern Mexico as a campfire dish. Today, Mexican restaurants serve up countless variations of this cheesy delight.

5. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez

Chicharito started his soccer career at his home town club Guadalajara, before becoming the first Mexican player to join Manchester United in April 2010. He  is one of my favorite players, both on and off the field. He practically became an international soccer star overnight,  and unlike so many soccer players that have preceded him, without naming names (Zlatan, Ronaldo…), his feet are planted firmly on the ground and he carries himself with such grace.

Last year, before the Gold Cup final, Hernandez said to a reporter when asked how it feels to be a star: “I’m not a rock star. I’m not an idol. I’m not a hero. I’m only a human being. I am doing the most important thing of my life — playing football. I am one more player, one more person on the national team.”

I wish you all a wonderful Cinco de Mayo tomorrow, and I hope you enjoy at least one of the first four Mexican delights above. And don’t forget to watch Chicharito on Sunday 11 AM EDT when Manchester United plays Swansea.

Viva Mexico!