Cinco de Mayo, which means “the 5th of May,” is a jolly and vivacious festival celebrated pompously in Mexico. Cinco de Mayo street festival is an illustrious holiday that remembers the Battle of Puebla on the 5th of May, 1862, between the Mexican Armed force and the French.

This article will dig deeper to learn more about Cinco de Mayo and how this festival is observed in Mexico.

History of celebration

Mexico had been sieved by a grueling debt owing to three wars the nation had confronted. In 1862, the French, Spanish, and English forces had rung the war bells on Mexico to impose a moratorium on the repayment of foreign debts.

The French soldiers were here to stay and establish a monarchy, even though the Spanish and English armies had retreated.

Mexico could not reach a compromise with France, who, under the leadership of Napoleon III, took this opportunity to try and pivot towards building within the Mexican territory.

Napoleon sent 6,000 troops to attack Puebla while Mexican President Juarez rounded up 2,000 troops to defend the small eastern central Mexican town. Although the Mexicans were outnumbered, they were successful in holding off the French assault while only incurring approximately 100 casualties in comparison to France’s 500.

This single battle did not significantly impact the war’s overall outcome; however, it became known for its symbolic victory against the incredible odds. The war ended when the United States came to their neighbors’ assistance by applying political and military pressure on France.

Puebla became the symbol of Mexican independence and resistance after the French army was defeated and driven out on the 5th of May.

According to history, Mexican Americans living in California during the American Civil War started the first Cinco de Mayo celebrations to support Mexico during the French-Mexican War.

How to celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

Even though the Cinco de Mayo festival is observed in different parts of Mexico, most festivities occur in Puebla, where locals recreate battle scenes and hold parades. However, American celebrations are the loudest!

While Mexico celebrates this holiday by carrying out military parades and reenactments of the battle with France, the United States associates it more with celebrating the Mexican culture and heritage.

celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo was proclaimed a public occasion in the USA in 2005, and the Americans bet everything! Parades, battle reenactments, merry mariachi bands, and fireworks are all part of the exuberant Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the United States.

The cities with notable Cinco de Mayo festivals are mainly in the west, with higher Mexican populations. Places where the Cinco de Mayo festival is celebrated vehemently are,

Minneapolis, Minnesota: St. Paul’s West Side’s District de Sol is taken over for this festival, having a salsa-tasting contest, parade, sports zone, wellness village, crafts and history area. It is a premiere family travel deal for everyone in the family.

San Marco, Texas: This city not only observes the festival with food and music celebrations, but it also has a Miss Cinco de Mayo and Little Miss Cinco de Mayo pageants, a parade, a statewide menudo cook-off and a salsa/hot sauce contest.

Denver, Colorado: Enjoy Mexican music, dancing and food in this 2-day-long festival

Chicago, Illinois: Douglas Park for festivals, music, food, games, kids’ area and cultural displays.

Portland, Oregon: The Tom McCall Waterfront Park is littered with carnival attractions as well as Mexican food

Reno, Nevada: 100,000 visitors came to this place for fun and enlightening with Mexican and Latin music, food and cultural artists

San Antonio, Texas: The historic market square has concerts, food, music and other commemorations

San Francisco, California: The Mission neighborhood is taken over by health screenings, all-day cultural attractions, Lucha Libre wrestlers and a Mission Dolores tour

San Diego, California: Different areas of San Diego are participating in Cinco de Mayo celebrations, most notably the Bazaar del Mundo and Gaslamp.

Traditional foods in Cinco de Mayo

The Cinco de Mayo festival is a beautiful excuse to have a party as Mexican food lends itself very easily to entertaining. Some popular foods that you can try at this festival are,

Cinco de Mayo festival

Tacos: Tacos are an integral part of Mexican cuisine and are preferred at the Cinco de Mayo festival. This dish comprises either corn or flour tortilla stuffed with multiple ingredients like beef, chicken, pork, or beans. It is often garnished with lettuce, cheese, salsa, and other toppings to make it more delicious.

Enchiladas: When talking about the Cinco de Mayo festival, we can’t ignore Enchiladas. They are prepared with corn tortillas, cheese, meat, or beans. After rolling, they used to dip it in a tangy tomato sauce.

Guacamole: This dip is prepared with smashed avocados, lime juice, and various seasonings like garlic, cilantro, and chili peppers. This dish can be served as an appetizer or snack in Cinco de Mayo.

Salsa: This piquant tomato-based sauce comes with tortilla chips or as a condiment for tacos.

Margaritas: Our list of foods for the Cinco de Mayo festival won’t be completed if we don’t mention Margaritas (a special cocktail). They are made with tequila, lime juice, and orange liqueur and are served either blended or on the rocks.

Churros: This sweet pastry is a highly-acclaimed dessert in Cinco de Mayo. They are prepared with fried dough coated in cinnamon and sugar. To make it more mouth-watering, it is often served with chocolate sauce.

Music & Dancing on Cinco de Mayo

The Cinco de Mayo festival is incomplete without music and dancing. The festival is celebrated with traditional Mexican music and folk dance “baile folklórico”. This dance form requires vibrant costumes and choreographed steps that often portray varied Mexican culture.

Music & Dancing on Cinco de Mayo

Mariachi music: Mariachi music (originated in Jalisco, Mexico) is integral to the Cinco de Mayo celebration. It typically consists of musicians playing instruments, such as trumpets, violins, and guitars.

Ranchera music: It is another popular Mexican festival associated with Cinco de Mayo. This music is accompanied by strong vocals and acoustic guitar. The lyrics often entice the audience with love, loss, and Mexican culture.

Cumbia music: Though it originated in Columbia, it is popular in Mexico. It is characterized by its upbeat rhythm and the use of instruments such as the accordion and the guiro.

Cinco de Mayo is one of those holidays shrouded in mystery, and although the celebrations come from different ideas and meanings, the overall sentiment seems singular. No matter where, who, or how this holiday is celebrated, it highlights Mexican pride and perseverance stemming from a rich cultural heritage.

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Happy Cinco de Mayo!


What are the top three facts about Cinco de Mayo?

  • Most people think Cinco de Mayo stands for Mexican Independence Day, but the scenario differs. Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated on the 15th and 16th of September.
  • Though this festival is celebrated hugely in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is not a national holiday in Mexico.
  • Puebla (the origin of Cinco de Mayo) starts their revelries a month before the 5th of May.