Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo Celebration [Photograph]. (2019, May 2). Curbed Austin.

Noelle Barczak, Staff Writer

Although many people believe that Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexican Independence, this is not the case. Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May, celebrates the Mexican army’s win over the French in the Battle of Puebla. Interestingly enough, Cinco de Mayo is not celebrated as a major holiday in Mexico. However, the United States has adopted this holiday as a day to recognize Mexican culture on a larger scale.

The Franco-Mexican war began in 1861, as Mexico had fallen into debt to the French. Hoping to use Mexico’s debt as an excuse, Napoleon III gave the order to invade Mexico in hopes of eventually colonizing Mexican land to expand his empire. Once within the country, the French immediately forced the president and the government into retreat, and the Franco-Mexican war began.

As the Mexicans were caught largely unprepared, the French military officials were very confident that their first attack, located in Puebla de Los Angeles, would be a success. The president, catching wind of the French’s plan, located 2,000 men who were largely unprepared for the larger French forces. Their leader, General Zaragoza, gave the men to fortify the town, and the Mexicans lay in wait for the arrival of the French.

On May 5, 1862, the French reached the town and began to attack. The battle was short, lasting only a day before the French finally retreated. Surprisingly, the Mexicans lost less than 100 men, a much smaller deficit than the French suffered. It was this win at Puebla de Los Angeles that inspired the Mexican people to continue to fight back against the French until they eventually won the war in 1864.

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated throughout Mexico and the United States in a variety of different manners. In Puebla, this holiday is celebrated with historic reenactments, parades, and speeches. During the Cinco de Mayo parade, there are over 20,000 participants, including Mariachi bands, costumes, dancing, and fireworks. Although it is not a federal holiday in Mexico, children in Puebla have the day off school. In Mexico City, festivals and large-scale military reenactments occur. However, Cinco de Mayo is largely a regional celebration, stemming mostly from Puebla.

Originally, in the United States, Cinco de Mayo was a way for Mexican immigrants to celebrate and share their heritage. The celebration became popularized during the Civil War and was used to help inspire the Union. Celebrations contained parades, banquets, dances, and bullfighting, all in a similar manner to Mexican celebrations. However, many Americans not of Mexican descent have taken this holiday and continued to expand and develop it.

Now, Cinco de Mayo serves as a day for Americans to eat Mexican-inspired foods, attend parades, watch performances, and celebrate Mexican culture. Cities such as Los Angeles, San Jose, San Antonio, Sacramento, Denver, and San Francisco all hold massive celebrations. Often, schools within these areas will dedicate a lesson to the importance and history of Mexican culture and this special holiday. However, just as in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday.

Cinco de Mayo, which once served as an inspiration for the Mexican soldiers, now serves as a great way for cultures to appreciate one another and for people to learn more about new places. Cinco de Mayo, although not as widely celebrated in Mexico, has had a profound impact on American society, specifically Mexican immigrants. This holiday will forever serve as a way of showing the importance of perseverance, dedication, and belief in a cause, for, without these qualities, the smaller Mexican army would not have been able to overcome France in their quest to conquer.



Cinco de Mayo. (2009, October 23). History. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from,as%20Battle%20of%20Puebla%20Day

Cinco de Mayo. (2022, March 5). Britannica. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from

Cinco de Mayo in the United States. (n.d.). Time and Date. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from,music%20and%20dancing%20are%20held.

Fay, J. (2019, May 4). Cinco de Mayo: What it is and How to Celebrate. Today. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from

Mone, B. (2021, May 5). 9 Ways Cinco de Mayo is Celebrated Differently in the US and Mexico. Insider. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from