Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

Children dancing at Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Children dancing at Cinco de Mayo celebration.
(Source: Yousuf Fahimuddin, Flickr)

Cinco de Mayo, a time-honored and revered holiday in the Mexican and Mexican-American community, commemorates the victory of the Mexican Army in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The holiday celebrates a victory over the French forces that invaded and occupied parts of Mexico.

The History

When two previous wars left the Mexican treasury nearly bankrupt and temporarily unable to pay its foreign debts, France under Napoleon III led an invasion into Veracruz that cut a path into Mexico City. Although France’s invasion of Mexico was initiated by the debt dispute, the nation also sought to use the invasion to establish a stronghold in the Americas.

As the French army advanced towards Puebla, it was successfully fought back and defeated by the much smaller and poorly equipped Mexican army. The victory by the Mexican army was considered a classic “David vs. Goliath” victory and has remained an integral part of Mexican national pride, representing both the defeat of a powerful invading, colonial force by an underdog army seeking to reclaim its homeland and also the last time any country in the Americas was ever invaded by a European military force.

The Holiday in the U.S.

In the U.S., the commemoration of Cinco de Mayo has its roots in the Mexican migrant communities in California, who immediately celebrated the Mexican army’s victory at the time it occurred. Over the following decades, celebration of the victory became a strong part of Mexican and Mexican-American culture. Each year, hundreds of celebrations take place across the U.S. every 5th of May.

SMCL has a wealth of material for all ages on the various aspects of this fascinating holiday. Below are a few recommendations.
Cinco De Mayo

Cinco De Mouse-O!

Marco's Cinco De Mayo

Cinco De Mayo

Cinco De Mayo

The Story of Cinco De Mayo

Celebrate Cinco De Mayo

Celebra el Cinco de Mayo con un jarabe tapatío

Cinco de Mayo

Celebrando Cinco de Mayo

Cinco De Mayo

Cinco De Mayo An Illustrated History

Cinco De Mayo

How will you be celebrating Cinco de Mayo?

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