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Highlighting Diversity: Four Cultures Celebrated in May 

May is known for spring beauty and perfect weather, but it’s also a month packed full of holidays and monthly observances. 

Mother’s Day and Memorial Day take place in May; it’s also the month we celebrate Mental Health Awareness, Skin Cancer Awareness, and Women’s Health Care. 

Three heritages are also honored all month long in May, and another through a popular holiday that many confuse the meaning of. 

Cinco de Mayo 

Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May, is a popular holiday in the U.S. that celebrates the Mexican Army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. A popular misconception is that the day represents Mexican Independence Day, which actually falls on September 16. 

It may surprise some, but in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is a relatively minor holiday, while in the U.S., it’s turned into a day to celebrate Mexican culture and heritage. 

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May has served as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) Month since 1992, but it took some time to become official. The effort to recognize the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in America started in the 1970s. 

May was chosen to honor AAPI heritage because it was on May 7, 1843, that the first Japanese immigrants came to the U.S. 

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest-growing racial group in the country. The AAPI umbrella term includes cultures from Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, and the entire Asian continent, including East, Southeast, and South Asia. 

Read about the instrumental contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders throughout America’s history here

Haitian Heritage Month

Haitian Heritage Month is an extension of Haitian Flag Day, which falls on May 18. In the 1930s, Haitian President Dumarsais Estimé extended the holiday to the entire month. It wasn’t until 1998 that the first month-long celebration of Haitian Heritage took place in the U.S. In 2005, the White House officially recognized the holiday. 

Haiti was the first Black republic to gain its independence from colonizers, and today, the population is almost entirely people of African or African-European descent. 

Learn more about Haitian culture through the Haitian Heritage Museum

Jewish American Heritage Month

May also celebrates Jewish American Heritage and celebrates the contributions Jewish Americans have made to America. It started in 1980 but May was officially proclaimed as Jewish American Heritage Month in 2006. 

The official proclamation was made after efforts by the Jewish Museum of Florida and South Florida Jewish community leaders. Those led to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania urging the president to proclaim a month to recognize the more than 350-year history of Jewish contributions to America. 

May was chosen because of the successful celebration of the 350th Anniversary of American Jewish History in 2004. 

Learn more about how Jewish Americans have helped to shape our country here

Ways to Celebrate 

America is home to many diverse cultures and heritages. By recognizing and celebrating them and how they’ve impacted our history, we pave the way for a brighter and more inclusive future.    

There are many ways you can celebrate other cultures or heritages; check out some ideas below! 

Attend a cultural event or try a traditional recipe

Are there any local events near you celebrating these cultures this month? Head over to Google and see — or look for virtual celebrations you can attend. 

You can celebrate at home by cooking a traditional dish too!

Visit an art exhibit 

See if any of the museums near you are highlighting these cultures with an exhibit.

Join in on social media celebrations 

How are other parts of the U.S. highlighting these cultures this month? What did Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Mexico look like this year? Check out your favorite social media platform and see! 

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