Originating in the 1860′s with Mexican-American communities in the American West, Southwest and Northwest, the American Cinco de Mayo began as a way to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War. Today, in the United States, Cinco de Mayo is observed annually on May 5 as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride.
Cinco de Mayo is Spanish for “fifth of May.”
The United States Congress issued a Concurrent Resolution on June 7, 2005, calling on the President of the United States to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe Cinco de Mayo with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
According to José Alamillo, professor of ethnic studies at Washington State University in Pullman, a 2006 study found there are more than 150 official Cinco de Mayo events across the country.
Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the United States have taken on a significance beyond that in Mexico. They include displaying of banners and events highlighting Mexican culture, music and regional dancing, as well as school districts holding special events to educate students about its historical significance. In the U.S., commercial interests have capitalized on the celebration advertising Mexican products and services with an emphasis on beverages, food and music.
Celebrated in Mexico as a commemoration of the Mexican army’s 1861 victory France during the Franco-Mexican War. The victory occurred at the Battle of Puebla between 6,000 French troops and small, under-supplied Mexican force of 2,000 men.
The victory was not the battle that won the war, but it held great symbolism for the Mexico during the war, but is minor holiday there and is not considered a federal holiday.
- Mexico won the battle, but not the war: Although the Mexican Army won the battle at Puebla on May 5th, 1862 the French went on to win the war, occupying the region for five years.
- Napolean III had multiple motives on May 5th: For the leader of France, Napolean III, the battle at Puebla was an attempt at not only spreading his empire but at conquering a key Mexican access point to the U.S., where he intended to lend support to the confederate army during the Civil War in an effort to keep the U.S. divided and consequently less powerful.
- Abraham Lincoln sympathized with the Mexican cause but: Abraham Lincoln sympathized with the Mexican cause during the French occupation but was unable to lend direct support to the nation due to the U.S. Civil War, which was taking place at the same time. When the Civil War finally ended, the U.S. forced France to withdraw its troops from Mexico and their empire collapsed.
- Not a federal holiday in Mexico: Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday in Mexico and is a relatively minor holiday outside of Puebla, Veracruz and the United States. In Puebla and Veracruz, however, Cinco de Mayo is a very important state holiday celebrated with parades, festivals and reenactments.
- Roosevelt helped popularize Cinco de Mayo in the U.S.: Cinco de Mayo became a popular holiday in the U.S. after President Franklin Roosevelt enacted the “Good Neighbor Policy” in 1933 to improve relations with Latin American countries.
- Lots of avocados: According to the California Avocado Commission, Americans consume up to 81 million pounds of avocados on Cinco de Mayo every year. Holy guacamole!
- The world’s largest Cinco de Mayo party is held in…:Los Angeles, California! Other U.S. cities that throw big celebrations for Cinco de Mayo are Denver, New York, Phoenix and Houston. Want to throw your own Cinco de Mayo party? Read our post, How to Plan the Ultimate Cinco de Mayo Party, for tips!
- Some even celebrate with Chihuahua races: One U.S. city celebrates Cinco de Mayo with a Chihuahua race. Can you guess which city? It’s Chandler, Arizona. Even Vancouver celebrates, marking the day with a “skydiving boogie” that consists of aerial acrobatics and an air show.
- Americans like their tequila: According to the Daily Meal, the United States consumes twice as much Tequila as Mexico, where the spirit originated.