Cinco de Mayo, i.e the 5th of May, is a holiday that celebrates the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla on 5th May, 1862during the Franco-Mexican War on. The day, which falls on Tuesday, May 5 in 2020, is also known as Battle of Puebla Day. While it is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the United States, Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a commemoration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations.  Feasts and celebrations are thrown in the US focusing on food, drink and music, whilst in Mexico it is more likely to be marked by military parades and re-creations of the Battle of Puebla

Chicano activists raised awareness of the holiday in the 1960s, in part because they identified with the victory of indigenous Mexicans (such as Juárez) over European invaders during the Battle of Puebla.  Some have argued that the scale of celebrations in the US is a triumph of marketing – it is certainly good business for vendors of Mexicans beers and tequila!  It’s clear that the histories of Mexico and the United States have been intertwined since the beginning of their existence as independent nations. 

Many people outside Mexico mistakenly believe that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican independence, which was declared more than 50 years before the Battle of Puebla.  Independence Day in Mexico (Día de la Independencia) is commemorated on September 16, the anniversary of the revolutionary priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s famous “Grito de Dolores” (“Cry of Dolores,” referring to the city of Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico), a call to arms that amounted to a declaration of war against the Spanish colonial government in 1810.

In Mexico, Independence Day is a much ‘bigger deal’ that Cinco de Mayo, it is a national holiday and is celebrated across the country with fireworks, lively parades, and performances of traditional music, including mariachi bands.  No celebration is complete without appropriate food and drinks of course!  It is considered particularly patriotic in Mexico to drink cocktails and eat dishes in the colours of the Mexican flag – red white and green.  The ‘Bandera Mexicana’ consists of a shot of lime juice with tequila and sangria; whilst the classic ‘Chile en Nogada’ consists of a stuffed green chili smothered in a white walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds – delicious.  Vive Mexico!