The 5th of May, a special Day in Mexico and in my country of birth – The Netherlands. Why is this day so special for both countries? To tell you more about this date and to celebrate this day, Bea -Mexican living in the Netherlands- and me -living in Mexico- would like to tell you a bit more about the importance of this day to both countries.
“It’s hard to say what freedom means or is, if you’ve always had it.”
One of the Canadian soldiers that helped to liberate Groningen in 1945
Although for many of us World War II was only experienced in books and other accounts, Dutch people set aside two days on their calendar to mark this event and commemorate it on a very special way. But, what makes it special?, you might be asking yourself.
For the Dutch it is as important to remember the five years of Occupation, the prosecution of many minorities (Jews, Sinti, etc), the destruction of cities and villages throughout the country, as it is to look towards the future and celebrate all the freedoms enjoyed today.
4 May: Dodenherdenking
On May 4th, the Dutch hold the Remembrance Day (Dodenherdenking in Dutch) commemorating those who died fighting during World War II, the victims of prosecution, and the civilian casualties; however they also remember those
fallen since in other wars or peacekeeping operations. The ceremony is held in Amsterdam at the Nieuwe Kerk in Dam Square attended by King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, members of parliament and people representing the different groups in the society who were affected by the war. At 8:00 p.m. a two minutes of silence is observed in the whole country. All the event is broadcasted live so people across the Netherlands can take part in the commemoration. This is also done so that Dutch people overseas can take part in the Remembrance Day.
5 May: Bevrijdingsdag
May 5th marks the end of the German Occupation of the Netherlands. That day in 1945 in Wageningen, Canadians reached an agreement on the capitulation of German forces in the Netherlands. This day is commemorated the Dutch way, with concerts and music festivals across the country; reflecting on the privilege of living in a country where people live in freedom.
Past and Future
These two days are inextricable linked in the Netherlands. There is no future without remembering the past, and there is no past if we don’t take two minutes to reflect what happened.
And what happened in Mexico today?
The French in Mexico?!
In the year of 1862 the French arrived in Mexico to claim Mexico’s accumulated debts. When the debts couldn’t be paid, France decided that it was time to expand their nation and took action to install a relative of Napoleon the 3rd as ruler of Mexico.
Mexico was suffering a lot of violence at that time. It had finally gained independence from Spain in 1821, after which a lot of internal political wars had ruined the Mexico’s economy where after the debts in European countries arose. And so
came the French… They invaded along the state of Veracruz and began to march toward Mexico City.
An army of some 6000 well-equipped French soldiers encountered strong resistance near Puebla. Here, a Mexican General called Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin lead a small and poorly armed militia of about 2000 Mexicans to protect Mexico. Somehow the militia lead by señor Zaragoza Seguin managed to accomplish the difficult task to defeat the French army. This victory was a very important moment for the Mexican patriots – it helped to develop a sense of national unity.
Victory on Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo – the 5th of May, is the day that commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Don’t get confused here – many people think Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day, which was declared more than 50 years before the Battle of Puebla and celebrated on September 16.
Within Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is particularly celebrated in the state of Puebla. Yes, the state where the actual battle took place! The celebration is also popular across the border – in the U.S. and overseas Mexican people like to use this holiday as a celebration of Mexican culture, food, music and customs.
What will you be doing to celebrate Cinco de Mayo or Bevrijdingsdag today?