The History and Celebrations of Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo, often mistaken for Mexico’s Independence Day, has a rich history and unique cultural significance. This article explores its origins, observance in Mexico, evolution in the United States, and the best ways to honor this important date. We’ll also uncover fun facts and authentic ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

The Real History Behind Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo, meaning the Fifth of May, commemorates the Battle of Puebla fought against the French in 1862. Contrary to popular belief, it is not Mexico’s Independence Day, which is celebrated on September 16. Mexico became independent from Spain in 1821, fifty years before the Battle of Puebla.

The Battle of Puebla

In 1861, Benito Juárez, a lawyer and member of the Indigenous Zapotec tribe, was elected president of Mexico. The country was in financial ruin after years of internal strife, leading Juárez to default on debt payments to European governments. In response, France, Britain, and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz, Mexico, demanding repayment. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew their forces, but France, under Napoleon III, decided to use the opportunity to carve an empire out of Mexican territory.

Late in 1861, a well-armed French fleet stormed Veracruz, landing a large force of troops and driving President Juárez and his government into retreat. Confident of a swift victory, 6,000 French troops under General Charles Latrille de Lorencez set out to attack Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico. Juárez rounded up a force of 2,000 loyal men—many of them Indigenous Mexicans or of mixed ancestry—led by Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza. On May 5, 1862, Lorencez gathered his army and led an assault on Puebla.

Despite being vastly outnumbered and poorly supplied, the Mexicans fortified the town and prepared for the French assault. The battle lasted from daybreak to early evening, and when the French finally retreated, they had lost nearly 500 soldiers, while fewer than 100 Mexicans had been killed. Although not a major strategic win in the overall war against the French, Zaragoza’s success at the Battle of Puebla on May 5 represented a great symbolic victory for the Mexican government and bolstered the resistance movement. In 1867, France finally withdrew, and Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, who had been installed as emperor of Mexico in 1864 by Napoleon, was captured and executed by Juárez’s forces. Puebla de Los Angeles was renamed in honor of General Zaragoza, who died of typhoid fever months after his historic triumph.

Celebrations in Mexico

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is primarily observed in the state of Puebla, where Zaragoza’s unlikely victory occurred. Traditions include military parades, recreations of the Battle of Puebla, and other festive events. For many Mexicans, however, May 5 is a day like any other: it is not a federal holiday, so offices, banks, and stores remain open. Celebrations in Puebla tend to be more enthusiastic, with an elaborate parade attended by the president, and the armed forces recreating the Battle of Puebla with around a hundred soldiers at the original location every year. Elsewhere in Mexico, the celebrations are more reserved. Children may have a special history lesson at school, and individual cities like Mexico City may hold a civic ceremony and a military parade, sometimes involving small reenactments of the battle. Civic ceremonies often include a live band, speeches, folkloric dance, and regional costumes.

Celebrations in the United States

Cinco de Mayo is widely interpreted in the United States as a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with substantial Mexican-American populations. Chicano activists raised awareness of the holiday in the 1960s, identifying with the victory of Indigenous Mexicans over European invaders during the Battle of Puebla. Today, revelers mark the occasion with parades, parties, mariachi music, Mexican folk dancing, and traditional foods such as tacos and mole poblano. Some of the largest festivals are held in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston.

The Biggest Cinco de Mayo Celebrations in the U.S.

Los Angeles: The biggest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the world, Los Angeles’s festival is known as Fiesta Broadway. With mariachi bands, Latino musical superstars, and Mexican food galore, this festival, sometimes held on the Sunday before May 5, packs in fun for the whole family.

Denver: This mountainous city holds a big event for Cinco de Mayo that includes street food, live music, and the Green Chili Bowl Cookoff. An important dish of the Southwest, Green Chili is a spicy dish of beef or chicken with green salsa, often made with New Mexican hatch chili.

San Diego: San Diego’s Cinco de Mayo celebration lasts an entire three days. It all happens in the historic Old Town neighborhood, where you can hear live music, watch Baile Folklórico (Folkloric Dance), eat to your heart’s content, and drink some outlandish Mexican cocktails.

Honoring Cinco de Mayo with Authentic Puebla Food

The culturally curious might want to honor Cinco de Mayo by learning to cook some authentic Mexican cuisine, a tradition so rich and complex it has been recognized by UNESCO. While there are no foods specific to Cinco de Mayo celebrations, a great place to start is with dishes from Puebla, where the battle took place.

Pipián: An exquisite sauce made of roasted pumpkin seeds called pepitas, blended with tomatillos, chilis, spices, and a little chicken broth. The sauce is served over chicken with a side of white rice and can also be used to make enchiladas.

Mole Poblano: There are many kinds of mole in Mexico, but the people of Puebla lay claim to its invention. This rich sauce starts with chilis, nuts, seeds, and spices before adding melted bittersweet chocolate with a touch of thickener like bread and ground raisins. Each cook has her own variation.

Mole de Caderas: More than a sauce, this is a rich goat stew cooked in a base of tomatoes and/or tomatillos with three chilis and delicate flavorings, including avocado tree leaves and guajes, a pod that grows on trees in Mexico. Some ingredients may need to be sourced from a Latin market or online.

Fun Facts About Cinco de Mayo

  • Only 1 in 10 individuals know that Cinco de Mayo represents the Mexican victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla.
  • 40% of Americans believe Cinco de Mayo marks Mexico’s Independence Day.
  • Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday in Mexico.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy of 1933 paved the way for Cinco de Mayo to become an American holiday.
  • Sizable crowds, street festivals, live music, and dancing are all staples of celebrating this holiday.
  • Mole Poblano is the official dish of Cinco de Mayo.
  • Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston hold the biggest Cinco de Mayo events across the country.
  • Cinco de Mayo is also celebrated in Canada, Australia, and Japan.
  • 87 million pounds of avocados are purchased for Cinco de Mayo, more than any other time of the year.

Ways to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Learn About Mexico

What better way to show appreciation and celebrate a holiday than to educate yourself on the day? Discover the true meaning of Cinco de Mayo and take this time to dive into Mexican culture.

Celebrate with an Authentic Meal

One of the best ways to learn about a culture is through its food. Make some tacos, guacamole, tamales, and tostones at home. If you’re not a big fan of cooking, head to your local Mexican restaurant to enjoy these staples.

How To Celebrate Cinco De Mayo

By understanding the true history and cultural significance of Cinco de Mayo, we can honor this important day authentically and respectfully. Whether you’re enjoying traditional Mexican dishes, participating in festive events, or simply educating yourself about Mexican culture, there are many ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo meaningfully.

Why People Drink Tequila on Cinco de Mayo

The day is marked by festive activities, including music, dancing, and, notably, the consumption of tequila. But why is tequila such a staple on this day? The answer lies in the spirit’s deep connection to Mexican heritage and culture.

Tequila, named after the town of Tequila in Jalisco, Mexico, is more than just a drink; it’s a symbol of Mexican pride and craftsmanship. Made from the blue agave plant, tequila’s production process is steeped in tradition, involving skilled artisans who have passed down their knowledge through generations. By drinking tequila on Cinco de Mayo, people honor this rich cultural legacy and celebrate the vibrancy of Mexican traditions.

We Recomend Hermosa Organic Tequila

If you’re planning to indulge in tequila on Cinco de Mayo, why not choose the best? Hermosa Organic Tequila stands out for numerous reasons that go beyond its impeccable taste. Here’s why you should consider Hermosa Organic Tequila:

USDA Certified Organic

Hermosa Organic Tequila is USDA Certified Organic, ensuring that it meets rigorous standards for purity and sustainability. This certification means no chemicals, no pesticides, no herbicides, and no synthetic fertilizers are used in its production. By choosing Hermosa, you are not only enjoying a high-quality spirit but also supporting environmentally friendly practices.

Award-Winning Excellence

Hermosa Organic Tequila has garnered numerous awards for its exceptional quality and taste. This recognition from industry experts underscores the brand’s commitment to excellence and its standing as a top-tier tequila.

Bioagricert Certified

In addition to its USDA certification, Hermosa is also certified by Bioagricert, an international organization that ensures compliance with organic standards. This dual certification highlights Hermosa’s dedication to maintaining the highest levels of purity and quality.

Chemical-Free and Additive-Free

Unlike many commercial tequilas, Hermosa Organic Tequila contains no additives or chemicals. This purity is evident in its clean, authentic flavor, which is the result of traditional, chemical-free agricultural methods strict to USDA certified organic and Bioagricert. We need to be aware of all the harmful chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers that are sprayed on the agave fields and the agave plants. We all need to know where the agave used in the tequila we drink comes from, is it sustainable and is it harmful.

Hermosa Organic Tequila is also additive-free no added coloring, sweeteners, glycerine, oak extracts… we use two ingredients USDA certified organic agave and deep well water filtered through over 400 feet of volcanic soil.

Traditional, Resurrected Brand

Hermosa Organic Tequila is a resurrected brand from 1939, bringing back traditional methods and values to modern consumers. This heritage adds a layer of authenticity and nostalgia, making each sip a journey through tequila’s rich history.

Kosher Certified

For those who observe kosher dietary laws, Hermosa Organic Tequila is an excellent choice. It is kosher certified, ensuring it meets strict standards and can be enjoyed by a wider audience.

Small Batch and Ultra-Premium

Hermosa Organic Tequila is produced in small batches, allowing for meticulous attention to detail and quality control. This ultra-premium approach ensures that every bottle delivers a superior drinking experience.

Single Estate and Handcrafted

Hermosa is a single estate tequila, meaning all the agave used comes from one location, ensuring consistency in flavor and quality. Each bottle is handcrafted, reflecting the skill and dedication of the artisans who produce it.

No Commercial Yeast

During the fermentation process, Hermosa Organic Tequila uses an all-natural, open-air, sustainable process with no commercial yeast added. This method allows natural yeast from the environment to ferment the agave, resulting in a unique and authentic flavor profile.

A Brand That Gives Back

Hermosa Organic Tequila is committed to making a positive impact on the environment. For every bottle sold, a tree is planted through Trees For The Future, an organization dedicated to reforestation and sustainable agriculture. This initiative has been in place since the first bottle was sold, demonstrating Hermosa’s long-term commitment to sustainability.

Mexican Owned

Hermosa Organic Tequila is proudly Mexican-owned, ensuring that its production supports local communities and stays true to its cultural roots. By choosing Hermosa, you’re supporting a brand that honors its heritage and gives back to its homeland.


Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, and tequila is a perfect symbol of that pride. When choosing a tequila to toast with on this festive day, Hermosa Organic Tequila stands out as a superior choice. With its USDA and Bioagricert certifications, chemical-free and additive-free production, traditional methods, and commitment to sustainability, Hermosa offers an authentic and high-quality drinking experience. Raise a glass of Hermosa Organic Tequila and celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a spirit that embodies the best of Mexican craftsmanship and environmental stewardship.


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