Cinco de Mayo is not the Mexican Independence Day, like many people think — that would be September 16. Actually Cinco de Mayo is a minor holiday in Mexico, which celebrates a victory over the French at the Battle Of Puebla.
So why is it such a huge event in the U.S.?
Marketing of course.
The holiday gained popularity in the 1950’s and 1960’s because of The Good neighbour policy, an effort to build a better relationship between Mexico and America, according to National Geographic.
But it really took off when beer companies got involved.
In the early 1980s, Anheuser-Busch and Miller Company created Hispanic Marketing departments and began sponsoring Cinco de Mayo celebrations, according to Norman K. Denzin’s Studies In Symbolic Interaction. In 1989 a party sponsored by Anheurser-Busch turned into a drunken riot, and latino activists accused the company of “pushing a legalized drug upon our community.”
Decades later the party remains a key means of marketing to the hispanic beer market. In 2009 beer companies spent $171-million on Spanish language advertising.