¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

A brief history of the popular holiday


Photo courtesy of Wikicommons

A Cinco de Mayo celebration in Washington, D.C. in 2007.

Maggie Blackburn, Assistant Editor, Arts & Culture

A lot of Americans know Cinco de Mayo to be the day to order chips and salsa, however many don’t know the history behind the festivities. Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day, but only celebrates a single battle.

In late 1861, the French stormed the Mexican capitol of Veracruz, driving President Juárez and his government into retreat, leading to the Battle of Puebla. On May 5, 1861, Veracruz won the battle, which is still celebrated today for symbolizing victory of the Mexican government. 

Cinco de Mayo is most popularly celebrated in the state of Puebla, where Veracruz had his victory, but it is celebrated all over the country. Popular traditions include military parades, recreations of the battle and other events.

Many Cinco de Mayo celebrations include food. The official food of the celebration is Molé Molé Poblano. Some other common foods include chilaquiles, tamales, carnitas and barbacoa. 

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is popularly observed to celebrate Mexican culture. The American version of commemoration of the successful battle also includes parades, parties, mariachi music, Mexican folk dancing and authentic foods including tacos and Molé Poblano.

Because the traditions have grown to a global status, the celebration’s growth is guaranteed for many years to come. In recent years, because of gained traction, people globally have been able to immerse themselves with a small aspect of Mexican culture.