What started as a commemoration of Mexico’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, has become a yearly tradition of celebrating Mexico and Mexican culture. It has become a tradition observed much differently in the United States versus Mexico (learn more about that difference here) as well.

UC Press is using this day to shine a light on recent books exploring Mexican history and culture.

A Place at the Nayarit:
How a Mexican Restaurant Nourished a Community

by Natalia Molina

In 1951, Doña Natalia Barraza opened the Nayarit, a Mexican restaurant in Echo Park, Los Angeles. With A Place at the Nayarit, historian Natalia Molina traces the life’s work of her grandmother and the hidden history of the Nayarit, a neighborhood restaurant that nourished its community of Mexican immigrants with a sense of belonging as they made their own places in Los Angeles.

Interview with Natalia Molina

El Cinco de Mayo:
An American Tradition

by David Hayes-Bautista

Why is Cinco de Mayo—a holiday commemorating a Mexican victory over the French at Puebla in 1862—so widely celebrated in California and across the United States, when it is scarcely observed in Mexico? As David E. Hayes-Bautista explains, the holiday is not Mexican at all, but rather an American one, created by Latinos in California during the mid-nineteenth century. 

Read excerpts from El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition

Diego Rivera’s America
by James Oles

Diego Rivera’s America revisits a historical moment when the famed muralist and painter, more than any other artist of his time, helped forge Mexican national identity in visual terms and imagined a shared American future in which unity, rather than division, was paramount.

Ink under the Fingernails:
Printing Politics in Nineteenth-Century Mexico

by Corinna Zeltsman

During the independence era in Mexico, individuals and factions of all stripes embraced the printing press as a key weapon in the broad struggle for political power. Taking readers into the printing shops, government offices, courtrooms, and streets of Mexico City, historian Corinna Zeltsman reconstructs the practical negotiations and discursive contests that surrounded print over a century of political transformation.

Fugitive Freedom:
The Improbable Lives of Two Impostors in Late Colonial Mexico

by William B. Taylor

Cut loose from their ancestral communities by wars, natural disasters, and the great systemic changes of an expanding Europe, vagabond strangers and others out of place found their way through the turbulent history of early modern Spain and Spanish America. The vagabonds and impostors of colonial Mexico are as elusive in the written record as they were on the ground, and the administrative record offers little more than commonplaces about them. Fugitive Freedom locates two of these suspect strangers, Joseph Aguayo and Juan Atondo, both priest impersonators and petty villains in central Mexico during the last years of Spanish rule.

An American Language:
The History of Spanish in the United States

by Rosina Lozano

An American Language is a tour de force that revolutionizes our understanding of U.S. history. It reveals the origins of Spanish as a language binding residents of the Southwest to the politics and culture of an expanding nation in the 1840s. As the West increasingly integrated into the United States over the following century, struggles over power, identity, and citizenship transformed the place of the Spanish language in the nation. An American Language is a history that reimagines what it means to be an American—with profound implications for our own time.