The fifth of May is called “Cinco de Mayo” in Spanish and is a Mexican national holiday. It is also celebrated throughout Mexican-American communities in the U.S., perhaps arguably to a grander and bigger extent.
The holiday recognizes the victory of Mexico over the French at the Battle of Puebla, east of Mexico City, on May 5, 1862. The Mexican army was sorely outnumbered by the invading French army, but the Mexican forces somehow prevailed. That crucial victory marked a huge step for Mexico in its struggle for independence and served to boost morale during a time of political and economic unrest.
Unfortunately, the victory was short-lived because the French ruled Mexico thereafter during the French Intervention period until 1867. Today, celebrations, parades and fiestas mark the historic date.
Fun facts and trivia
Cinco de Mayo facts, fiction and folklore abound, including the following fun facts and trivia:
- Cinco de Mayo is often confused with Mexico’s Independence Day, which is celebrated on Sept. 16 and marks the date in 1810 (more than 50 years before the Battle of Puebla), when the country gained its independence.
- Mexicans celebrate more than 365 festivals annually (an average of one per day), including Cinco de Mayo.
- Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and other large U.S. cities host Cinco de Mayo celebrations each year, drawing thousands of celebrants to their events.
- Fiesta Broadway is held in downtown Los Angeles each year and is viewed as the biggest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the world. This is thanks in part to the half million participants who attend each year.
- One of the most prevalent and enjoyable ways that celebrants experience Cinco de Mayo is through mass amounts of delicious Mexican cuisine and drink.
- As the star ingredient in guacamole, avocados top the list of Cinco de Mayo celebration foods. The California Avocado Commission predicts that Americans will consume in excess of 70 million pounds of avocados just during this celebration alone.
- Many compare Cinco de Mayo to St. Patrick’s Day because the event has become one large excuse to party. Some community organizations are trying to revamp the holiday into a family-friendly cultural event.
Cinco de Mayo may have started with historical roots, but today’s recognition of the event is marked by the consumption of Mexican food and drink, parties, festivals, parades and merriment. Whether or not commercialism is to blame for the departure in the event’s focus, few, if any, seem to be complaining.