How Cinco de Mayo Became One of the Most Popular Festivals in the United States

Holidays + Festivals

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the victory of Mexican troops over the French in  1862. Ironically, it is celebrated with more enthusiasm in the United States than in Mexico.

 General Porfirio Diaz enters Puebla, Mexico. Painted by Francisco de Paula Mendoza.

Cinco de Mayo, which is Spanish for May Fifth, is a popular celebration in the United States.

The holiday commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over French soldiers in the Battle of Puebla on 5 May 1862.

Just as St. Patrick’s  Day is celebrated with more enthusiasm in the United States than in Ireland, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated much more enthusiastically in the U. S. than in Mexico.

Many Americans mistakenly think Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day, but it is not. Mexican Independence Day actually falls on 16 September.

California Gold Country

Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated in California since 1863, when Mexican gold miners in the California Gold Country fired guns into the air, set off firecrackers, and sang patriotic songs on the first anniversary of the Mexican victory over France the year before.

The event has been celebrated in California to a greater or lesser extent ever since.

Cinco de Mayo picked up steam during the rise of the Chicano movement in the 1940s and spread to other parts of the United States in the 1950s and 60s.

Cinco de Mayo grew in popularity in the 1980s as a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage.

Parades are held in many cities. There are also performances of Mexican folk dancing and mariachi music.

South of the Border

Cinco de Mayo is an official holiday in the Mexican state of Puebla, where the battle took place, but not in other parts of Mexico.

Schools throughout Mexico, however, don’t hold classes on Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo has spread to other countries in recent years. Cinco de Mayo celebrations are now also held in Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand.

Somewhat ironically, Cinco de Mayo celebrations are even held France!

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