A suitably costumed dog named Killer attends a Cinco de Mayo festival in Los Angeles.
Many communities throughout the United States celebrate Cinco de Mayo, the “fifth of May.” Contrary to a common assumption, the day is not Mexico’s independence day, which is September 16. Instead, Cinco de Mayo marks the First Battle of Puebla, a victory of the Mexican army over invading French forces that took place on May 5, 1862. Victory was short-lived, however, as the French won the Second Battle of Puebla a year later, went on to take Mexico City, and installed a Habsburg archduke as the emperor of Mexico. Still, Cinco de Mayo has become a popular celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. The festivities may include parades, mariachi concerts, folk dancing, speeches, and, of course, lots of great food and beverages.
You’d think that the celebration originated in Mexico and is a national holiday there. Not so. It actually seems to have originated in California among Mexican gold miners who were overjoyed to hear of their countrymen’s victory over the French. Ever since, Californians have celebrated Cinco de Mayo. The rest of the country began taking notice in the 1940s, with the spread of Chicano activism. In the 1980s, corporate marketing departments began to promote Cinco de Mayo when they realized it could be a big money-maker with their Hispanic demographic. In most of Mexico, though, the fifth of May remains pretty much like the fourth or the sixth.
Now Cinco de Mayo fiestas have gone global. Windsor, Canada, holds a street fair. In Vancouver, a skydiving event marks the day. In the Cayman Islands, in the Caribbean, partiers hold an air guitar competition. (One may be forgiven for not seeing the connections among skydiving, mimed guitar-playing, and the First Battle of Puebla.) Other countries where Cinco de Mayo festivities are held include Jamaica, Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and France. Party on, compadres!
Image credit: © Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
- The Battle of Puebla and Cinco de Mayo
Review the details of the famous battle.
(Source: PBS; accessed April 30, 2013)
- The History of Cinco de Mayo: from Mexican Battle to U.S. Bacchanal
This article traces the development and transformation of the holiday.
(Source: National Geographic, May 5, 2010)
- Cinco de Mayo
Watch videos about the history, food and beverages, music, and other topics related to the Mexican celebration.
(Source: HISTORY.com; accessed April 30, 2013)
- The Mexican Festival of Cinco de Mayo
Listen to an interview about Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Australia.
(Source: 612 ABC Brisbane, May 4, 2012)