The history and significance to California of Cinco de Mayo will be the topic of UCLA professor Dr. David Hayes-Bautista’s Cinco de Mayo University Speaker Tour, which makes its first stop Monday, Sept. 26, at California State University, Fresno.

He will speak at 1 p.m. at the Satellite Student Union, 5241 N. Maple Ave. The event is free and open to the public and is part of Fresno State’s Hispanic Heritage Month recognition.

With the 150th anniversary of the event that led to the first Cinco de Mayo approaching next year, Hayes-Bautista’s latest book, “El Cinco de Mayo. An American Tradition,” is due to be released from U.C. Press in 2012. It details the history behind this American Civil War holiday and how it originated.

Learning that the Mexican army in Puebla had defeated invading French troops on May 5, 1862, Latinos in California were overjoyed that freedom and democracy had won a victory over forces representing slavery and oligarchy. Latinos all over the state rejoiced and celebrated with fireworks, patriotic songs and impromptu speeches, said Hayes-Bautista.

Why do people in the United States celebrate the victory of an obscure battle that took place in Mexico 150 years ago? Hayes-Bautista said Cinco de Mayo is not celebrated as a national holiday in Mexico because it was created and first celebrated by Latinos living in California.

“Cinco de Mayo is important to California because it was invented here,” said Hayes-Bautista. “It provides a collective identity for all Latinos, whether they were born here in California or immigrated from Mexico, Central America or South America. It binds them together in an identity.”

Hayes-Bautista is professor of medicine and director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the School of Medicine at UCLA. His research focuses on the dynamics and processes of the Latino population’s health.

The Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture combines these research interests with teaching of medical students, residents and practicing providers to manage the care of a Latino patient base effectively, efficiently and economically.

For more information, contact Margarita Reyes at 310.794.0663.

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Dr. Hayes-Bautista