What is Cinco de Mayo

By Abdullah Farooq

2021-11-06

Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May, is a holiday that celebrates the date of the Mexican army’s May 5, 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. The day, which falls on Wednesday, May 5 in 2021, is also known as Battle of Puebla Day. While it is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the United States, Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a commemoration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations.

"5th of May" redirects here. For the date, see May 5.

Not to be confused with Mexican Independence Day, which occurs on September 16.

Cinco de Mayo
Batalla de Puebla.png

Battle of Puebla

Observed by MexicansMexican Americans, and people of non-Mexican heritage
Type Political
Significance Celebration of the Mexican victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862
Celebrations Parades, food, music, folkloric dancing, battle reenactments
Date May 5
Frequency yearly
Related to El Día de la Batalla de Puebla

Cinco de Mayo (pronounced [ˈsiŋko̞ ðe̞ ˈma̠ʝo̞] in Mexico, Spanish for "Fifth of May") is an annual celebration held on May 5, which commemorates the anniversary of Mexico's victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, the victory of a smaller, poorly equipped Mexican force against the larger and better-armed French army was a morale boost for the Mexicans. Zaragoza died months after the battle from an illness, and a larger French force ultimately defeated the Mexican army at the Second Battle of Puebla and occupied Mexico City.

More popular in the United States than in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo has become associated with the celebration of Mexican-American culture. Celebrations began in California, where they have been observed annually since 1863. The day gained nationwide popularity in the 1980s due to advertising campaigns by beer, wine, and tequila companies; today, Cinco de Mayo generates beer sales on par with the Super Bowl. In Mexico, the commemoration of the battle continues to be mostly ceremonial, such as through military parades or battle reenactments. The city of Puebla marks the event with various festivals and reenactments of the battle.

Cinco de Mayo is sometimes mistaken for Mexico's Independence Day—the most important national holiday in Mexico—which is celebrated on September 16, commemorating the Cry of Dolores in 1810, which initiated the war of Mexican independence from Spain. Cinco de Mayo has been referenced and featured in entertainment media, and has become an increasingly global celebration of Mexican culture, cuisine, and heritage.

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