Everyone knows what May 5, or Cinco De Mayo, means: tacos, margaritas, fun and fiesta. But did you know that without what happened on this fateful day, the United States may have not existed as we know it today? What exactly happened on this day of seemingly endless partying and celebration? Let’s take a deep dive in Mexican-American history!
History of Cinco de Mayo
Let’s start by clearing the biggest misconception: No, Cinco de Mayo is not the Mexican Independence Day. But, that does not mean it’s less important or notable than it actually is, for the history behind it dawns on the importance of the landscape of North America as a whole.
An economically-struggling Mexico was intervened by the French for the second time, who had the hopes to gain control of the Latin American country under the rule of Napoleon III. The French General, Charles de Lorencez, directed his army towards the capital of Mexico City, with the intent to overthrow the president of Mexico, Benito Juarez.
But things didn’t go as planned, as they encountered heavy resistance, culminating at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Even if their forces had half the numbers of their opponents, the Mexican Army, led by Ignacio Zaragoza, managed to successfully win over the French army at Puebla, a city just 70 miles from Mexico City. Four days later, on May 9, Juárez declared Cinco de Mayo a national holiday.
While the battle in itself was not a major strategic win, and the French took control of Mexico in 1864, it served to lift the spirits of resistance forces, and helped them to gain an alliance with the Americans to successfully make Napoleon’s forces withdraw. Since it is believed the French would have likely aided the Confederacy at the Civil War, Mexico’s resistance likely changed the history of the United States.
Pro-Union Mexican citizens in the state of California heavily celebrated the victory at the Battle of Puebla viewing it as a victory for the Union’s cause, later formalizing and spreading the annual celebrations across all of California, and Mexican-Americans all around.
Cinco de Mayo timeline
- June 7, 2005
The United States Congress called for the observance of Cinco de Mayo.
- May 5, 1863
Formal celebrations happen for the first time in Sonora and spread to other California cities, like San Francisco and Los Angeles
- May 27, 1862
The First Celebration
The first Cinco de Mayo parties in the US take place in Columbia, California as residing Mexican miners get news of the battle.
- May 5, 1862
The Battle is Won
The Battle of Puebla is held and Mexico triumphs over French forces.
Cinco de Mayo - Survey Results
Cinco de Mayo FAQs
How does Mexico celebrate Cinco de Mayo?
The holiday is not formally observed countrywide, but there is still recognition in some parts. It is a full holiday in the states of Puebla and Veracruz, where battle reenactments and poblano culture displays are held.
Corn tortillas or flour?
Both work! Corn and flour tortillas have different uses: flour tortillas tend to be more flexible, perfect to make burritos and quesadillas, while corn tortillas are gluten-free and filled with nutrients. Fun fact, they’re both Mexican in origin.
Who gives the best Cinco de Mayo deals?
Plenty of chain stores give special Cinco de Mayo offers, regardless if they are Mexican-themed or not. From Del Taco to Taco Bell to your local small family-owned Mexican place, search around and you will find an amazing deal.
Cinco de Mayo Activities
Learn about Mexico
Discover the beginnings of Cinco de Mayo and expand your appreciation of our southern neighbors. Take the time to learn more about how their history has helped shape our own and the ways in which they have contributed to U.S. culture.
Dance to Mexican music
Try learning traditional Mexican dances such as Jarabe Tapatío. You can take a class or simply give it a go in your own home. Not only is it fun, but the exercise will help you feel less guilty when you chow down on traditional food later! The bigger the group, the bigger the fun, so invite your friends and have a little dance party!
Cook an authentic meal
One of the best ways to get to know a culture is through food. So why not try creating a traditional Mexican meal at home, either alone or with friends? Skip the standards — you can have those anytime. Instead of guacamole or tacos, try making pozole or tamales. You’ll love making it as much as eating it.
Take The What Do You Actually Know About Cinco De Mayo? Quiz
5 Facts About Cinco De Mayo
It’s a hit with beer companies
Up to $600 million worth of beer can be sold on this day and can outsell the Superbowl and St. Patrick’s.
Tequila reaches peak sales
The USA can consume about 127 million liters of tequila and mezcal on May 5.
Avocado? Toast for that.
Americans can consume up to 87.3 million pounds of avocados in Cinco de Mayo
Record Breaking Taco Heads
Taco Bell’s taco head Snapchat filter is the most successful ad campaign ever done in the social platform, at 224 million uses.
New York’s First
Corona became the first brand to gain permission to use the Times Square New Year's Eve ball, turning it into a lime and having it dropped on May 5, 2017.
Why We Love Cinco de Mayo
When Mexico celebrates, we celebrate with them. The U.S. would not be what it is today without the support of Mexico’s great citizens. Cinco de Mayo's a great time to revel in all Mexico has to offer and celebrate the country and all it’s added to our own!
Who doesn’t love a good party? On Cinco de Mayo there are celebrations most everywhere. Someone may invite you to one or you may throw your own. Alternatively, many restaurants, clubs, and organizations host events. It’s a good time to relax, have fun, and enjoy the company of friends and family!
Cinco de Mayo's an excellent excuse to enjoy Mexican cuisine and even try your hand at a traditional recipe you haven’t had before. If cooking isn’t your thing, go out to eat! Support your local Mexican restaurant and try something new off the menu.
Cinco de Mayo dates