National Cinco de Mayo Day

The Cinco de Mayo holiday commemorates the Mexican army’s triumph over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Find out more about Cinco de Mayo here.

Mexican sombrero, maraca and blanket with text that says, "National Cinco de Mayo Day"

When is Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated on May 5th.

Is May 5th Mexican Independence Day?

No, it’s not. In the U.S. it is often confused with Mexican Independence day, which is actually on September 16th.

On September 16, 1810, a progressive priest named Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla became the father of Mexican independence with a historic proclamation urging his fellow Mexicans to take up arms against the Spanish government. Known as the “Grito de Dolores,” Hidalgo’s declaration launched a decade-long struggle that ended 300 years of colonial rule, established an independent Mexico and helped cultivate a unique Mexican identity. Its anniversary is now celebrated as the country’s birthday.


A Brief History

Cinco de Mayo, or May 5th, marks the victory Mexico (1861) had over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla. This victory was incredibly significant because Mexico’s forces were much smaller and less equipped than the forces of the French.

The Battle of Puebla

In 1861, as the French marked onwards towards Mexico City, they ran into a great deal of resistance near the town of Puebla at the Mexican forts of Loreto and Guadalupe.

The Mexican resistance won a decisive victory over the French and buoyed the country as they fought the invaders.

How Long Did the Battle of Puebla Last?

The battle only lasted one day, from dawn until dusk. The losses on the Mexican side were significantly less at 100 where the French army lost around 500.

The battle caused the French to retreat, but they soon returned with over 30,000 troops and eventually captured Mexico city. However, their occupation was short lived because, once their Civil War was over, the U.S. began to provide aid and assistance to Mexico.

Does Mexico celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo is not widely celebrated in Mexico. However, the town of Puebla holds a yearly celebration to commemorate the victory over the French.

When did it become a holiday?

The celebration first appeared just weeks after the battle in Columbia, California.

Who celebrated it first?

When the immigrants in Columbia California heard news of the victory, they celebrated with songs, speeches and toasts. Soon after, the celebration was recognized by Latinx patriotic and social groups.

Why Do We Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the United States?

The holiday began to spread in the 1920s and 30’s as a way to celebrate the culture of Mexican Americans and their self-determination.

Around the 1980s, American food and beverage manufacturers began to promote and commercialize the holiday to where it has become what some say is the Mexican St. Patrick’s day.

How to Respectfully Celebrate Cinco De Mayo as an American who is not of Latin descent

May the 5th is a day to honor Mexican heritage and culture. As Americans, we should be respectful. Instead of casually wearing fake mustaches and sombreros, we can find other, more enlightened ways to celebrate this day.

  • If you love Mexican American food and Margaritas, find a locally Latinx-owned restaurant to patronize.
  • Consider donating to a charity in the Latinx community.
  • Patronize locally owned Latinx markets and stores and art galleries.
  • If you have children, share with them the history and true meaning of the day.

What does cinco de mayo mean in english?

It means the Fifth of May.

Are cinco de mayo and day of the dead the same?

No they aren’t. The Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1st.

The Day of the Dead (el Día de los Muertos), is a Mexican holiday where families welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives for a brief reunion that includes food, drink and celebration.

Websites used in research for this post:

Visit the Calendar to find more National Days to celebrate!

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