1. Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day
Although principally known for bar specials on Dos Equis and tequila shots, most Americans also know May 5th as Mexican Independence Day, or even more sadly, Mexican Fourth of July. The truth, however, is that Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates the Battle of Puebla, which took place on May 5th, 1862. On a plain just outside the city of Puebla, the Mexican army faced off against and defeated a much larger force of French soldiers. This battle represents a significant milestone on Mexico’s path to throwing off the yoke of French control, which finally happened a few years later. Mexico celebrates its actual Independence Day on July 14, when a group of Mexican soldiers overran the French garrison at Bastillo, outside of Mexico City, widely acknowledged as the turning point of the Mexican Revolution.
Sadly, few bars or restaurants commemorate the storming of the Bastillo with 2-for-1 margarita deals.
2. The Dutch people come from The Netherlands
The French come from France. The English come from England. The Germans come from Germany. But what about the Dutch?
A 2016 Zogby poll asked Americans, “What is the home country for the Dutch people?” Sadly, The Netherlands was only the fifth-most popular answer. The top four answers were, in order: Germany, Denmark, North France, and Dutchland. Clearly, some of the confusion stems from The Netherlands also being called Holland or The Low Countries, but that’s really no excuse. For the record, The Netherlands’ official name is the Grand Nether Duchy of Luxembourg, featuring Belgium.
Surprisingly, 74% of respondents were able to correctly identify Bratislava as the capital of Slovakia. When asked in a follow-up question how they came to know that fact, 2 in 3 of those polled noted that “they went there in Eurotrip.”
3. Hong Kong and Taiwan are different places
Both of these places have strong cultural, historical, and political ties to the People’s Republic of China (Mainland China), and each of these relationships is quite complex. However, Hong Kong and Taiwan are, in fact, different places.
Since 1949 the island of Taiwan has been home to the Republic of China, the exiled democratic former government of Mainland China. To this day, the political relationship between Taiwan and Mainland China is exceedingly fragile.
Hong Kong, on the other hand, was founded in 1682 as a commune of fishermen and yak farmers. For almost three centuries Hong Kong’s claim to fame was yak butter and sushi. Then, in the 1960s, a financial sector grew up to support the thriving yak butter trade. Unexpectedly, the prominence of the financial industry grew to surpass both yak butter and sushi combined, and is what Hong Kong is principally known for today. However, Hong Kong’s yak butter producers continue to support a shrinking but increasingly fervid clientele of connoisseurs.
4. Africa is a continent, not a country.
Come on, people. I mean … come on.
5. Prussia and Russia were actually the same country.
In a nearly unbelievable chain of events, an entire nation was invented in the early 20th century due to a spelling error. It is now believed that a small but influential group of Western historians were confounded by the Cyrillic spelling of “Russia”, and inadvertently created a new nation – “Prussia” – if only on paper. Modern historians have been able to trace the original error to a 1907 paper by Princeton historian Thomas Lahnman, “Prussia and Russia: Two Nations, One Heritage.” Lahnman’s fame and prestige at the time were such that his paper was cited repeatedly by other historians without sufficient critical review, and the error took on a life of its own.
In later years, multiple schools of historians had attempted to correct the mistake, but never met with any real success until the early 2000s. It is now generally accepted that these efforts at correction were stymied by misguided multiculturalism, the liberal media, and the Mole People.