Cinco de Mayo Celebrations are more popular in the United States Than In Mexico

Did you know that Cinco de Mayo, a holiday that celebrates a Mexican military victory, is more popular in the U.S. than in Mexico – at least when it comes to big celebrations?

The United States’ largest Cinco de Mayo celebration returns this year after taking a four-year break for the pandemic, with organizers again expecting hundreds of thousands of visitors to downtown Los Angeles, California.

Like hundreds of other American cities, especially those with large Mexican-American communities, LA makes a big deal of Cinco de Mayo. The city’s Fiesta Broadway street festival, taking over a five-block stretch of Broadway Street, features food trucks, vendors, live entertainment, and a parade.

Chicago will also have a parade, followed by a festival in Douglas Park featuring food, music, and vendors, and scores of bars and clubs will host parties.

Yet another huge annual Cinco de Mayo bash happens each year at Denver’s Celebrate Culture Festival. Since 1988, a nonprofit group has organized the festival. This year will feature live music, Folklorico dancers, Mariachis, and Mexican food vendors.

By contrast, the holiday’s celebrations are far fewer and much more subdued across much of Mexico. That’s even though Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico’s surprising victory over an invading French army on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla.

Some Americans, including more than a few who flock to bars on May 5 to drink discounted margaritas and wear giant straw sombreros, erroneously think Cinco de Mayo marks Mexico’s independence from Spain. However, Mexico celebrates Independence Day on Sept. 16. Unlike Cinco de Mayo, Independence Day is a federal holiday in Mexico.

So how did a holiday marking a Mexican military victory in a war they didn’t even end up winning become more important in the United States than in Mexico? In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is less about commemorating the bloody battle and more about throwing a big party to celebrate Mexican-American culture.

The first Cinco de Mayo celebrations in America came just a year after the Battle of Puebla, in the border states that had been part of Mexico until 1848, as more Mexican-Americans sought ways to honor their heritage. In the 1960s and ‘70s, the holiday received a boost from the Chicano movement. Chicano or Mexican-American activists, tired of discrimination and emboldened by Civil Rights gains, worked to build cultural pride with the holiday. They especially embraced the symbolism of around 2,000 underdog Mexican troops defeating an invading French force of 6,000.

Author: Terry Jefferson


Terry Jefferson is a journalist with more than two decades of experience as a reporter and freelance writer. He was won several journalist awards over the years.

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