Cinco de Mayo is an important holiday that honors Mexican heritage.

It is widely celebrated across North America, especially in the U.S.

The holiday represents the resilience of the Mexican people during the invasion by the French empire in the 19th century.


Read on to discover why and how the holiday is celebrated in Mexico and the United States.

Why is Cinco de Mayo celebrated?

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrated every year in Mexico. 

The country celebrates its historic defeat of the Second French Empire during one of the most significant battles of the Second Franco-Mexican War. 

During the Battle of Puebla in 1862, an outnumbered Mexican army led by Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza defeated the French imperial forces, providing a huge morale boost to the soldiers and country.

The conflict between the two countries began after the Mexican president suspended the country’s debts to the French empire, resulting in Napoleon III launching an invasion of the former Spanish colony. 

Although the initial victory at Puebla helped rally the Mexican armed forces, French forces eventually launched a second attack on the town that was successful. Within a few years, French forces defeated the Mexican army and occupied the country before later appointing Maximilian I as the new emperor of Mexico.

The holiday is celebrated in Mexico with formal military parades and various battle reenactments.

However, after the end of the American Civil War, Mexican rebels began receiving money and weapons from the United States government and eventually retook the country and executed the emperor. 

The victory by the Mexican army at Puebla became known by the date of Cinco de Mayo and is an important cultural event that honors the resilience of the Mexican people.

When and where is Cinco de Mayo celebrated?

In Spanish, Cinco de Mayo translates to May 5 — the date on which the holiday occurs each year. 

The holiday is celebrated in Mexico with formal military parades and various battle reenactments to honor the soldiers who fought the battle. 

For example, in the town of Puebla, a large reenactment takes place every year along with multiple festivals and decorative ceremonies.

Corona beer opening

However, Cinco de Mayo is more popular in the United States than its home country of Mexico. In the U.S., the holiday is celebrated through the consumption of beer and family dinners in honor of Mexican heritage and history. 

During the 1980s, beer companies ran an advertisement campaign that helped Cinco de Mayo gain nationwide popularity, particularly in states such as California and areas close to the U.S.-Mexico border.

What are some interesting facts about Cinco de Mayo?

One of the most interesting facts about Cinco de Mayo is that people often mistake the holiday for Mexican Independence Day. 

In reality, Mexican celebrate the start of their fight for independence from the Spanish colonizers on September 15-16.

In addition, areas of Mexico such as Puebla celebrate Cinco de Mayo for the full month of May.

Mexican street tacos

Moreover, the Mexican government does not consider Cinco de Mayo an official national holiday, although some children and workers receive the day off on May 5. 

People often mistake the holiday for Mexican Independence Day. 

However, many banks and public offices remain fully operational on the holiday.

Finally, the Mexican army was completely outnumbered during their initial victory against the French invaders in 1862 at Puebla. 

The Mexican army had some 2,000 soldiers to defend the town, while the French invaded with approximately 6,000 troops on the battlefield.

Phillip Nieto contributed reporting.

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