Cinco de Mayo

[ Spanish seeng-kaw the -mah-yaw ]
/ Spanish ˈsiŋ kɔ ðɛ ˈmɑ yɔ /

noun

a Mexican holiday marking the victory of Mexican troops over French forces in Puebla, Mexico, on May 5, 1862.

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Origin of Cinco de Mayo

<Spanish: May 5
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

HOMEWORK HELP

What and when is Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday on May 5 that celebrates the victory of Mexican forces during the Battle of Puebla, which occurred on May 5, 1862. Cinco de Mayo is Spanish for “Fifth of May” (May 5).

Cinco de Mayo is sometimes mistakenly thought to be Mexico’s independence day, but Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on September 16.

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is primarily celebrated in the state of Puebla. While Cinco de Mayo marks an event in Mexican history, it is widely (and perhaps even more popularly) celebrated in the United States. Mexican Americans celebrate it with parades, parties, and other events highlighting Mexican pride, and Americans without Mexican heritage often observe it by enjoying Mexican cuisine. Still, many Americans simply use it as an excuse for a party, especially for drinking excessively (in much the same way as St. Patrick’s Day).

Cinco de Mayo facts and history

In 1861, Mexican officials decided to pause payments on foreign debts, which did not go over well with England, Spain, and France—to whom some of those debts were owed. Troops from all three countries invaded Mexico. England and Spain withdrew, but France persisted in trying to set up a monarchy there. On May 5, 1862, an army led by Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza—despite being outnumbered and poorly equipped—defeated the French forces at the Battle of Puebla. It wasn’t a major strategic victory, and the war with France lasted another five years, but the Battle of Puebla became a symbol of Mexican resistance and a source of Mexican pride.

In Mexico, the biggest annual celebration of Cinco de Mayo occurs in the state of Puebla, where the Battle of Puebla took place. The day is celebrated with parades, music, and traditional Mexican food and drink. The holiday is celebrated elsewhere in Mexico, such as in Mexico City, but it’s not typically treated as a major holiday.

In the U.S., though, Cinco de Mayo is marked with a lot of festivities by both Mexican Americans and those without ties to Mexico (other than it being a neighboring country). In fact, Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated by Mexican Americans as far back as the late 1800s, and its rise in popularity as a holiday is largely due to celebrations of it in the U.S. In the middle of the 1900s, it began to gain popularity outside of communities with a large population of Mexican Americans.

At some point, companies started using the holiday as an opportunity to sell Mexican beer and other items associated with Mexico. For this reason, the holiday is sometimes seen as an “artificial” one that’s mainly observed by drinking Mexican beer and tequila and eating Mexican food like tacos without knowing (or respecting) any of the history or traditions. But for Mexican Americans, Cinco de Mayo has been a way to celebrate and showcase their Mexican heritage and the many parts of Mexican culture that have become popular in the U.S.

Did you know ... ?

General Ignacio Zaragoza is still honored as a Mexican national hero. In fact, the city of Puebla was renamed in his honor: it’s official name is Puebla de Zaragoza.

What are some real-life examples if Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the U.S. almost always involve Mexican food. Among Mexicans and Mexican Americans, the day is a way to celebrate and share Mexican culture.

 

What other words are related to Cinco de Mayo?

Quiz yourself!

Cinco de Mayo celebrates which event in Mexican history?

A. Mexican Independence Day
B. The Battle of Puebla
C. The Mexican Revolution
D. The Battle of Celaya