On May 5, 1862, the Mexican Army vanquished the French at the Battle of Puebla, a major victory for the Mexican government in their struggle for independence. While liberation from French occupation would not come until 1867, many Mexican-Americans still celebrate the anniversary of this battle, known as Cinco de Mayo, as a commemoration of Mexican heritage and history.
Though Cinco de Mayo marks an important date in Mexican history, it is more commonly celebrated in the U.S., where Latino communities enjoy lively cultural festivities filled with music, dance, and cuisine. L.A. Times author, David E. Hayes-Bautista, described Cinco de Mayo as being “made in America, by Latinos who proudly bore the U.S. and Mexican flags to show their support.” For an authentic Cinco de Mayo that honors Mexican traditions and stays true to the holiday’s origins, we’re sharing our top celebration tips for a fun, festive Cinco de Mayo!
- Find a Local Fiesta: Many U.S. cities hold celebrations, carnivals, fiestas and multi-day affairs during the first week of May, with the largest held in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon and Texas. Ask your local Latin American cultural center about any festivities in the area, and bring along some friends for a day of cultural discoveries and celebration.
- Art Appreciation: The United States, and especially states that share a border with Mexico, has enjoyed immense cultural enrichment thanks to the contributions of Mexican authors, artists, and activists. Take a day or an afternoon to appreciate the work of Mexican-Americans such as Sandra Cisneros, Daphne Arthur, or Juan Delgado. For those in Austin, Texas, the Mexic-Arte Museum downtown is a great place to discover new artists and exhibitions.
- Savor Latin Cuisine: Cinco de Mayo brings cultural awareness to Mexican traditions, including their flavorful dishes. Popular and authentic dishes appreciated on Cinco de Mayo are tacos, enchiladas, and chile rellenos. You can try Tacos al Pastor, prepared with pineapple, or Tacos de Bistec, which can come with avocado and cheese. Enchiladas can be filled with either chicken, beef, or cheese and your choice of green or red salsa. Chiles rellenos, which originated from Puebla, are large, green poblano peppers stuffed with cheese or meat and then fried.
- Say Salud! While the origins of Cinco de Mayo probably didn’t include alcohol, it’s become part of the festivities and an enjoyable aspect of celebrating with friends. If you’re hosting a celebration, consider Corona, Tecate or Dos Equis, which are extremely popular Mexican beers. Recipes for festive tamarind margaritas, tequila sunrises, and cocktails can be found here. To ensure the safety of your guests, serve alcohol in moderation, ask a responsible adult to observe guests as they depart, and offer alternative methods of transportation.
For refreshing non-alcoholic beverages consider Peñafiel, or Topo Chico sparkling water, fresh fruit juices, club soda, or Mexican Coke.
Whether you’re participating in a local cultural festival, or feeding a crowd traditional Mexican dishes, it’s important to understand the true meaning of Cinco de Mayo to warrant a festive experience. With Cinco de Mayo nearly upon us, experience Mexican culture with one of these festive ideas. And from all of us at Access to Culture, ¡Felices fiestas!
Sharon Schweitzer and Amanda Alden co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.
Amanda Alden is an intercultural research assistant with Access to Culture. She graduated with honors from St. Edward’s University with a major in Global Studies and a minor in French, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Intercultural Mediations at l’Université de Lille III. Feel free to connect with Amanda at on LinkedIn.