Cinco de Mayo streetdancers
May 5, 2022

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Here’s 5 Fun Facts About the Holiday

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Cinco de Mayo is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our vibrant Mexican-American community here in San Antonio. The city always shows up for this holiday with food and drink specials, lots of live music and dancing, and plenty of fun decorations. You might check out the Cinco de Mayo festival in Market Square this weekend, with live bands, food, crafts, and even a Mariachi competition! 

Regardless of how you celebrate, take some time to learn about the history of Cinco de Mayo, as well as some fun facts you may never have known! 

What is Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo, which means May 5th in Spanish, is celebrated in the United States and parts of Mexico. The day commemorates the victory of the outnumbered Mexican army over the French army at the 1862 Battle of Puebla during the Second Franco-Mexican War. 

It is a common misconception that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexico’s independence, but it is not. The actual Mexican Independence Day falls on September 16th and celebrates the “Cry of Dolores,” the call to arms that launched the Mexican War of Independence.

Today in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is actually a minor holiday. It’s mainly celebrated in the state of Puebla, where the battle occurred, but other parts of the country do not typically celebrate.

In the United States, on the other hand, Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a more widespread celebration of Mexican culture and traditions. Cities around the U.S. celebrate the holiday with events highlighting traditional Mexican dancing, music, and cuisine.

The History of Cinco de Mayo 

The Battle of Puebla, commemorated by Cinco de Mayo, has come to symbolize Mexican resistance to foreign invasion.

In 1862, French troops attempted to establish a monarchy in Mexico to gain influence in North America. The 6,000 French troops sent by Napoleon III outnumbered the ragtag army of Mexicans led by General Ignacio Zaragoza. However, the Mexican troops defeated the French troops and forced them to retreat.

The Battle of Puebla was not a major tactical victory during the war, but it boosted morale and became a symbol of Mexicans’ cultural pride, courage, and resilience.

Fun Facts about Cinco de Mayo

Here are some interesting facts about the holiday you may not have known!

Cinco de Mayo is Widely Celebrated in the U.S. Because of F.D.R.

It surprises many people that Cinco de Mayo is celebrated more in the U.S. than in Mexico. The reason that Cinco de Mayo is celebrated so widely in the United States can actually be traced back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1993, he passed the Good Neighbor Policy, which aimed to improve relations with Latin America and paved the way for Cinco de Mayo to become mainstream. However, it was California that first began celebrating the holiday due to the many Mexican immigrants who lived in the State. 

The Holiday has Significance for the Chicano Rights Movement

The history of Cinco de Mayo in the U.S. continued to evolve in the 1960s and ‘70s with the Chicano Rights Movement. This activist movement used the occasion as a call to action, which inspired an often overlooked community—not unlike the way in which the Battle of Puebla emboldened the Mexican resistance in 1862.

Mole Poblano is the Official Dish of the Holiday

When you go out to a Mexican restaurant for Cinco de Mayo, you probably have your choice of burritos or tacos to choose from, but neither of these favorite meals are the official dish of the holiday. Mole poblano is a rich, dark brown sauce that originates from Puebla, the city where the historic battle took place. It is made from Mexican chocolate with a blend of delicious traditional spices. To celebrate more authentically, try mole poblano on enchiladas. 

Mariachi Music is Essential to Cinco de Mayo Festivals

Street festivals are a popular way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, and the best will feature mariachi music. Mariachi music dates back to the 18th century and has long been a staple of Mexican since then. You will find it difficult not to dance in the streets when you hear the bands play, which is why you will probably see colorfully-clad dancers in Puebla dresses performing the baille folklórico there as well. 

Americans Go Big on Cinco de Mayo

In the U.S., festivities are marked by dancing, drinking, and indulging in all your favorite Mexican food. If you love guacamole, you are in luck on Cinco de Mayo! The popular dish is most likely the reason for this incredible statistic: according to Produce News, Americans eat a whopping 81 million pounds of avocados on Cinco de Mayo! Margaritas are also a staple, which is why the U.S. also drinks the most tequila globally on this holiday. 

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