Contrary to popular opinion, Cinco de Mayo or the Fifth of May is not Mexico’s Independence Day. Mexico gained its independence from Spain on September 16, 1810; May 5, 1862 was the day Mexico impressively defeated the large and powerful French forces in the Battle of Puebla.
Today, Americans celebrate this annual tradition due to the Mexican-Americans who experienced two historical milestones simultaneously: the Mexican defeat of the French and the U.S. Civil War during the 1860’s. Since then, May 5th has become a widespread holiday in the United States. 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.”
Given that this day is remembered to honor European defeat, it is not a national holiday in Mexico. The only place that celebrates the victory in Mexico – with parades and mock battle reenactments – is in Puebla, the location of where the battle took place. Cinco de Mayo celebrations are not as widespread in Mexico as they are in the U.S. In fact, large Cinco de Mayo festivals in the U.S. take place in Chicago, Denver, Portland, and St. Paul, Minnesota.
Holding its spot at number four, Cinco de Mayo is one of America’s top drunkest holidays. Many Americans use this holiday as an excuse to drink and have fun. Similar to how Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S. with drinking pints of Guinness, on Cinco de Mayo many Americans enjoy tequila, tecate, micheladas, and drink a margarita – or two.
Authentic Eating Options
Cinco de Mayo brings cultural awareness to Mexican traditions, including their flavorful dishes. Popular and authentic dishes that are appreciated on Cinco de Mayo are tacos, enchiladas, and chile rellenos. You can try Tacos al Pastor, which are topped with pineapple slices, 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 that are stuffed with cheese or meat and then fried.
Whether you’re going to a Mexican restaurant for happy hour or mixing your own margaritas, it’s important to understand the true meaning of Cinco de Mayo to warrant a festive experience. With Cinco de Mayo nearly upon us, immerse in the culture by trying traditional drinks and dishes!
Sharon Schweitzer and Paola Guevara co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. 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.
Paola Guevara is a Spring 2017 Cross-Cultural Communication intern with Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She’s lived in Mexico, France, and different states throughout the United States, including California, Florida, and Texas. She currently attends St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas studying International Business with a focus in French. Connect with her via Linkedin.
Photo Paola Guevara