10 ways Cinco de Mayo is celebrated differently in the US and Mexico

  • Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in the US and Mexico
  • But it’s much smaller in Mexico than it is in America.
  • In Mexico, celebrations are smaller and focused on military wins while in America, celebrations focus on drinking and eating.
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Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May, is a pretty popular holiday to celebrate in the United States, although its roots lie in Mexico.

In 1861, Mexico was in a state of financial ruin and distress, and the new president, at the time, Benito Juárez was forced to default on debt payments to various European governments. Those governments decided to send troops to Veracruz, Mexico to demand their money. All but France withdrew their forces. Instead, Napoleon III, the ruler of France at the time drove out Juárez and his government.

On May 5, 1862, the French troops – about 6,000 in number – attacked a small town in east-central Mexico called Puebla de Los Ángeles. They were led by General Charles Latrille de Lorencez and armed with heavy artillery. In response, Juárez sent 2,000 of his men to Puebla to fight the French troops.

The battle didn’t last long, from sunup to sundown. In the battle, the French lost about 500 soldiers, while the Mexican troops lost less than 100 men. The winning of the Battle of the Puebla represented a great victory for the Mexican government and has been solidified in Mexico’s history.

The celebration of this day is very different in the United States than it is in Mexico. Here are a few ways that the celebration differs throughout each country:

In the US, Cinco de Mayo started as a way to celebrate Mexican heritage but it’s seen as a festival anyone can be involved in.

Paul SteinThere are nationwide celebrations.

Although many use Cinco de Mayo as another day to party, the holiday is widely celebrated in parts of the country that have big Mexican-American populations, and large festivals in cities like Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; Portland, Seattle; and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Cinco de Mayo was first celebrated in the United States in 1863 in Southern California. The celebration was in support of solidarity with Mexico against French rule. By the 1930s the holiday became an opportunity to celebrate Mexican identity, promote ethnic consciousness and build community solidarity.

In Mexico, it’s more regional.

Wikimedia CommonsIt’s not celebrated nationally.

Cinco de Mayo is not observed throughout the whole of Mexico. It is primarily celebrated only in Puebla de Los Ángeles, with smaller celebrations in other parts as well.

In America, it’s become commercialized.

Bryan Bedder/Getty ImagesIt became a mass holiday.

In the 1950s and 60s, the holiday transformed as a way to honour Mexican-American pride. The holiday began to take on corporate sponsors and become commercialized.

In Mexico, it’s not Independence Day as many believe, but has remained a smaller holiday.

Flickr/S PakhrinIt’s not equivalent to our Fourth of July.

Though many Americans assume Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day, that’s not true. It is simply to remember the victory at the Battle of the Puebla. Actual Mexican Independence Day is September 16.

It’s not a federal holiday in America and most people won’t get off work for it.

Jamey Price/Getty ImagesIt’s not a national holiday.

Children remain in school and people have to go to work for the most part.

Children get off school for it in Mexico.

ShutterstockIt’s not a federal holiday in Mexico.

It’s not a federal holiday in Mexico either. Students get off from school for the holiday, but everything else is scheduled programming.

In America, it’s seen for many as a drinking holiday.

Flickr/ k4dordyThis is one of the biggest differences.

Cinco de Mayo is one of the top five drinking holidays in America. Some popular drinks include tequila, tecate, micheladas, and margaritas.

Parties might include Mariachi bands and other Mexican folk music, and even traditional Mexican dancing. But just like other holidays in the US, it may lead to cultural appropriation as those not of Mexican descent may feel comfortable wearing sombreros, fake mustaches, and ponchos.

In some parts of Mexico, it’s seen more as a holiday around the military.

ShutterstockIt’s seen as an observance of the Battle of Puebla.

Military parades, recreations of the Battle of Puebla, and other festivities take place. The Cinco de Mayo Parade is one of the main events for that day in Puebla. The parade usually boasts over 20,000 participants features Mariachis, colourful costumes, dancing, and fireworks, and usually runs along Boulevard Cinco de Mayo.

In America, it’s often celebrated with authentic — and not so authentic — Mexican food.

ShutterstockYou won’t find this spread at a Mexican Cinco de Mayo.

In the US, people use the holiday as an excuse to eat Mexican food like tacos, enchiladas, and chile rellenos, though how authentic the food people celebrate with is certainly up for debate.

In Mexico, it’s celebrated in some parts with a Mole Festival.

Another big event that happens is the International Mole Festival. This festival, while was only incorporated in the celebration since 2012, celebrates mole poblano, which originated in Puebla. There are culinary discussions, exhibitions, and tastings which feature international, national, and regional chefs.

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