What is the Cinco de Mayo? History and unique traditions

  • Sol Rivero

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone! This holiday has gained a lot of popularity in America during the last few decades, but, what is the Cinco de Mayo? If you want to learn what this date celebrates, keep on reading and discover the history and unique traditions which take place during May 5th!


What is the Cinco de Mayo? The history behind the holiday

The Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican-American holiday which takes place on May 5th, and commemorates the Battle of Puebla. The conflict had its origins in the Mexican Civil War, in which conservatives and liberals managed to make the economy of the country collapse. By then, Mexico was indebted to England, France and Spain, and the government declared that they couldn’t pay the debts given their condition.

The three European countries were enraged, and thus joined forces to make the Mexican government pay. However, the government managed to convince both Spain and England that they would pay their debt in the future, although France was not convinced. French forces stayed in the country and captured several Mexican cities.


On May 5, the French advanced towards the city of Puebla, in which the outnumbered Mexican army was secluded. Believing it would be an easy victory, the 6,000 French soldiers attacked the city. However, surprisingly, the Mexicans held their ground and managed to force the French army to retreat. The Mexican army persecuted the soldiers and managed to defeat them with more than 400 casualties.

Although the battle merely postponed the French victory which would come afterwards, the events became a beacon of national pride and hope for the Mexicans.

The celebration of the holiday began in Mexican-American communities of the United States during the American Civil Wars. Afterwards, the holiday gained popularity in Chicago, and, during the 80’s, it gained adepts all around the United States.


How do you celebrate the Cinco de Mayo? The most unique traditions

The Cinco de Mayo celebrations are very similar to that of St. Patrick’s Day. Just like this holiday, the Cinco de Mayo has become a day for celebrating heritage –in this case, Latin-American and Mexican legacy- especially in the United States, where Latinos and non-Latinos enjoy the holiday with extravagant parties in which the colors of the Mexican flag are predominant.

In Puebla, where the battle originally occurred, people go on parades, dance around the city, and sometimes reenacting the conflict by dressing as Mexican and French soldiers. In both Mexico and the United States, it’s also usual to enjoy typically Mexican music, dances and dishes.

Some of the most unique traditions celebrated during the Cinco de Mayo include visiting Irish bars in Los Angeles –where they visit Mexican bars on St. Patrick’s Day-, a large Mexican festival in Michigan, an air-guitar competition in the Cayman Islands, and a skydiving event in Vancouver, Canada.


Happy Cinco de Mayo!


You might also like:     

About.com. Cinco de Mayo / The Battle of Puebla. http://latinamericanhistory.about.com/od/thehistoryofmexico/a/cincodemayo.htm
Punchbowl. Cinco de Mayo Traditions. http://www.punchbowl.com/p/cinco-de-mayo-traditions
Yahoo. Cinco de Mayo traditions around the world. http://voices.yahoo.com/cinco-de-mayo-traditions-around-world-2933974.html