What Are We Celebrating on Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de MayoSo you walk into a bar, and there’s mariachi music playing, people dancing, and an endless amount of tequila flowing. No, this isn’t the setup to a bad joke, today is Cinco de Mayo! Indeed, tons of Americans recognize Cinco de Mayo every year, but do we really know what we are celebrating? What is the actual meaning behind this favorite holiday? Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not the day that Mexico gained its independence. In fact, Mexico observed that day nearly forty years earlier on August 24, 1821. On the other hand, the fifth of May commemorates Mexico’s unlikely victory over France and Napoleon III at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

Celebrations in the U.S.

Cinco de Mayo is surprisingly a minor holiday in Mexico, however, it is widely celebrated in the United States. In the 1960s, Chicano activists rediscovered the holiday and introduced it to Americans. Today, some of the largest holiday events take place in American cities, including Los Angelos, Chicago, and Houston, where there is a larger population of Mexican Americans. The festivities range from parades and mariachi music performances to traditional Mexican cuisine and street festivals that are unique to Mexico. In America, Cinco de Mayo has evolved into more of a commercialized holiday. With this in mind, many restaurants and businesses will offer drink specials, food, and music to encourage partying and drinking.

Celebrations in Mexico

In Mexico, locals celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the state of Puebla, which is about 85 miles east of Mexico City. The day is memorialized with speeches, military parades, dances, bullfights, and reenactments of the Battle of Puebla. Furthermore, the 1862 battle marks a triumphant time in Mexican culture as the country unified and rallied to defend itself. Cinco de Mayo celebrations are a way of encouraging pride in Mexican heritage, no matter which country you celebrate it in.