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Cinco de Mayo Celebration

Language Activities for Cinco de Mayo

A Day in Mexico
Use an almanac, an encyclopedia, and at least two other books to research life in the country of Mexico. What is the climate like? What is the food like? When do children begin school? How many years to most people attend school? What is the typical Mexican family like? What is housing like? What is shopping like? etc.

Based on this information, imagine yourself living in Mexico. In what ways would your life be different? In what ways would it be the same? Write about a typical day in your new life.

Against the Odds
The Mexican peasant army seemed to be taking on an impossible task when it went up against the much larger French army in the Battle of Puebla. Yet the smaller Mexican army emerged victor. When someone does something that looks difficult or almost impossible, we call it "beating the odds." Think of a time when you have "beaten the odds" and share it with your classmates.

French forces outnumbered the Mexican peasants nearly 3 to 1 at the Battle of Puebla. The French forces were more experienced at war and far better armed. But the rag-tag Mexican forces under the command of General Ignacio Zaragoza were fighting to protect their homes and families.

If you were a Mexican peasant about to enter into a battle in which you knew you were greatly outnumbered and outarmed, how would you feel? Write a journal entry describing your feelings right before the attack.

The 6,000 French troops approaching Mexico City had anticipated no resistance. How do you think they felt when they were confronted by -- and lost to -- a far smaller army? Write a second journal entry from the perspective of a French soldier after the battle.

Remembering Victory
Today Mexican citizens living in both Mexico and the United States celebrate Mexico's 1862 victory over the French on Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May. This victory did not bring complete independence to Mexico, but it did prove to the world that Mexico wanted the freedom to rule itself and that it would fight courageously to obtain and preserve that freedom. It also revealed that a few people committed to a cause could triumph over a larger, better-equipped army of people less interested in the cause for which they were fighting. Finally, it showed that a country which had been defeated time and time again could, with perseverance at last emerge victorious.

On a smaller scale, we each face conflicts each day. Whether competing against another team on the soccer field or struggling to understand a new rule in math, we are challenged. Sometimes we win immediately. Other times, we must try repeatedly before realizing victory.

Think back of the challenges you have faced in life--adjusting to life in a new city, learning how to read and write, making new friends, learning how to ride a bicycle without training wheel, earning money to buy something you really want, and so forth. Make a list of at least ten "victories" you can celebrate in your own life.

¿Habla español?
Take the opportunity to introduce students to some basic Spanish words. A printable 20-word collection of Spanish word/picture cards is available here. Once students are familiar with the vocabulary, play pictionary, charades, or taboo using the words.
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