Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo Picture
Cinco de Mayo Picture  Image: MarkScottAustinTX (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrated both in Mexico and throughout much of the United States. Although it is commonly believed to be Mexico’s independence celebration—which is actually September 16—Cinco de Mayo commemorates a victory by the Mexican army at the 1862 Battle of Puebla against the French, who occupied the country at the time. Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for "May 5th", or literally, "Five of May") is a celebration held on May 5 2016, Mexicans, primarily in the state of Puebla, celebrate their rich history and culture with festivals and Cinco de Mayo traditions, including folklorico dancing, celebratory food, and traditional crafts. Although it is a Mexican celebration, major American cities, particularly in California, the Southwest, and Texas, have their own Cinco de Mayo celebrations, including parades and other annual events.

Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo   Image: dbking (flickr)

Within Mexico, the holiday is celebrated most vigorously in the state of Puebla, where the battle occurred. The level of enthusiasm for Cinco de Mayo varies throughout the country of Mexico and the majority of celebrations in the United States are concentrated along with United States-Mexico border. Although it is not the same nationwide holiday that Independence Day is, there are various Cinco de Mayo traditions and activities for Cinco de Mayo that are quite popular and which focus on emphasizing unity and celebrating Mexican culture. Numerous schools and other organizations take the reins in planning the activities for Cinco de Mayo 2016 and encourage the public, especially the youth, to rejoice in their heritage.

The majority of the celebrations, in both Mexico and the United States, begin with a festive parade followed by arts and crafts fairs, feasts made up of traditional Mexican food, and lots and lots of folklorico dancing. The parades feature Cinco de Mayo music, colorful costumes and floats, and dancers. The music is always upbeat and features Mexican instruments such as the guitar and maracas. The traditional dancing that is present at these celebrations each year is usually mariachi and ballet folklorico and the dancers are decked out in Mexican clothing. One of the Cinco de Mayo traditions is to dress is traditional clothing which is always taken very seriously. Women typically wear long colorful dresses and the men wear casual black suits topped off with a large sombrero.

After the parades—and sometimes reenactments, depending on where you are celebrating—there are festive gatherings with more dancing and food. From tortillas served with fresh guacamole and fried plantains to tacos and enchiladas, many types of traditional Mexican food are present. The traditional dishes are always accompanied by Mexican beer or beverages, commonly tequila.

The largest US Cinco de Mayo celebrations are in cities with a high concentration of Latino residents, but there are events around the country. In Denver, the two-day Cinco de Mayo Celebrate Culture Festival usually attracts at least 400,000 people, while the San Antonio festivities include music, food, and commemorations at the city’s Market Square. San Francisco’s Mission District has free cultural entertainments, Lucha Libre wrestlers, and even health screenings, while San Diego has live Cinco de Mayo entertainment at Bazaar del Mundo, located in Old Town, and a “maracas and margaritas” event in the Gaslamp Quarter.

The celebration of Cinco de Mayo is something not to be missed whether you are traveling to Mexico or happen to be near one of the major US cities that holds party. The holiday brings to light the importance of the Battle of Puebla and celebrates the unique Mexican history and heritage. If you are looking for a good time on the 5th of May be sure to check your local calendar for festivities!

Top image: PaulSteinJC (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0

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