What is Cinco de Mayo? Here's everything you need to know

The annual festival is held on 5 May, but what is Cinco de Mayo and how is it celebrated?

3 mins


Is Cinco de Mayo Mexico’s Independence Day?

No, but many people assume it is (it’s actually independence day on 16 September). Instead, Cinco de Mayo celebrates what was an unlikely victory for the Mexican Republic in the 1862 Battle of Puebla, which saw them defeat the debt-chasing French forces, who outnumbered them three to one. Though the French went on to win the war, the battle had been marked every year since. Its name refers to the date of the conflict (5 May).


How do the locals celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

Within Mexico, the main festivities are largely held within Puebla City, near to where the original battle took place. The day extend to a month-long party, with fairs, plays and concerts held citywide. On 5 May itself, a re-enactment of the originally battle takes place at Penon de los Banos, while a frenzy of colourful floats, traditional mariachi bands and locals dressed in period costume (and fuelled by margaritas) march through the streets in a spectacular display.

Cinco de Mayo being celebrated in Florida (Shutterstock)

Cinco de Mayo being celebrated in Florida (Shutterstock)

Margarita cocktails are part of the party (Shutterstock)

Margarita cocktails are part of the party (Shutterstock)

Is Cinco de Mayo celebrated elsewhere?


Yes, compared to Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is a far bigger deal in the USA, particularly among Hispanic communities. About 150 official celebrations, held across more than 20 states, are reported to take place annually. Fuelled by a party atmosphere of Mexican music and dancing, its generally treated by most (including non-hispanic locals) as a cheerful excuse to sink a few Coronas.


What else can I do in Puebla?

Cinco de Mayo is far from the only reason to head to Puebla – it’s a rather charming city (and state) to visit. Its UNESCO-listed centre is home to wealth of ornate Catholic ceramic-tiled buildings and an iconic Baroque cathedral. And for more background on Cinco de Mayo, head for the forts of Guadalupe and Loreto – the setting of the battle itself. The latter houses a small museum depicting the conflict, but both offer widescreen views of the city’s fine architecture and rich culture.

Did you know...

According to the California Avocado Commission, the US consume up to 175 million avocados every Cinco de Mayo.

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