This year, Cinco de Mayo will fall on Friday, May 5, 2017.
The annual event honors the defeat of the French Army at the Battle of Puebla in Mexico on May 5, 1862, and celebrates the experiences of people with Mexican roots who live in the US. Often confused with Mexico’s independence day, Cinco de Mayo celebrations occur in cities like Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, San Antonio, Sacramento, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Denver and El Paso.
Cinco de Mayo has grown more commercial over the years, with many food services and stores offering discounts and promotions in honor of the celebration. Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday, but parades and local events in many Southwest states often lead to congestion in towns.
In 1861, a man named Benito Juarez was elected president of Mexico. Upon taking office, he was forced to default on debt payments to many European governments. France, Britain, and Spain, sent naval forces to Mexico and demanded their pay, but Mexico was able to negotiate with Britain and Spain and their forces were withdrawn. France, however, thought differently, and hoped to take Mexican land for themselves. In the Battle of Puebla, France sent 6,000 troops to a small town in east-central Mexico. The battle between the French and Mexicans (who had far less supplies than the French) resulted in a French loss. The French retreated after losing near 500 soldiers. Less than 100 Mexicans were killed in the battle.
In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated namely in the state of Puebla, which is where the country’s unlikely victory occurred. Some common traditions include parades and recreations of the Battle of Puebla.
And what about Mexico’s official Independence Day, which many Americans confuse Cinco de Mayo for? Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on September 16, and marks the anniversary of the day when Miguel Hidalgo, a Catholic priest, made the cry of independence and called for an end to Spanish rule in Mexico, thus starting the Mexican War of Independence. The war lasted 11 years, and Mexico was finally declared independent in September 1821.
According to Smithsonian.com, traditional Mexican dishes that celebrate Cinco de Mayo include lamb barbacoa, mole poblano, chalupas, and chiles en nogada. To check out some inventive tequila cocktail drinks you can make in celebration of the holiday, click here.