Shannon Brady
Writer & Editor

Cinco de Mayo honors the anniversary of a pivotal battle of the Second Franco-Mexican War: the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. During this battle, Mexican forces successfully held back a French army twice their number and prevented them from reaching Mexico City, and so the victory remains a point of strong national pride. Its American origin can be traced back to 1863 California, when Mexican miners heard the news about the victory at Puebla and celebrated joyously. Check out our previous article on Cinco de Mayo for more information.

Cinco de Mayo traditions and attitudes towards the holiday differ considerably between Mexican and American celebrations. In Mexico, it is a fairly minor holiday, especially in comparison to Mexican Independence Day/Día de la Independencia de México, which commemorates Mexico winning independence from colonial Spain. In fact, the only place in the country where it’s widely celebrated at all is the state of Puebla, where the decisive victory took place. Puebla kids may even get the day off from school! Even there, the focus on the military and historical significance of the holiday is much higher, and reenactments are more popular than parties.

In America, while many may wrongly reduce it to just an opportunity to drink excessively, the real reason the holiday has grown even more popular here than in its country of origin is that it’s become a celebration of overall culture more than one specific event. Mexican-Americans are the country’s largest Hispanic group, and over the twentieth century, Cinco de Mayo has become a day to celebrate Mexican-American culture and the achievements of Mexican-Americans throughout the country’s history, and for Mexican-Americans to take pride in their heritage.

Especially in areas with major Mexican-American populations, you can expect to see parties, community events, and sometimes even parades with traditional music and dance for Cinco de Mayo. You may see people wearing green, red, and white (the colors of the Mexican flag), and find large crowds at Mexican restaurants.

Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday, so you can expect transportation, businesses, and government buildings to be operating on normal hours. However, if you plan to go out to eat, it’s best to make reservations ahead of time: it’s a popular holiday for parties and outings! Many restaurants will have special deals for the occasion.

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