Cinco de Mayo is an important holiday in Mexico that’s celebrated across the world. Not many people know the meaning behind the fun-filled, lively day where tequila and Mexican-style ponchos often make appearances.

Do you know the real reason Mexicans celebrate on May 5th? If you guessed it commemorates a successful military endeavor, you guessed right!

How Mexico Celebrates Cinco de Mayo

On May 5th, 1862, the Mexican army was locked in a deadly clash with French forces in the Battle of Puebla. Under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín, the Mexican army declared an unlikely victory, which inspired a boost in morale for the then-invaded Mexican nationals. Although the victory was a small advancement, it acted as a symbolic “David versus Goliath” metaphor throughout the country.

We know that Americans love to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by drinking tequila and donning caricature-like sombrero hats, but how do Mexicans commemorate the holiday? It’s important to note that the largest celebrations happen in Puebla, the site of the historic battle.  

Throughout the city, many parades fill the streets. People dress up as Mexican and French soldiers, while recreating moments from the battle. Active military members walk the parades as a form of commemoration to their historic counterparts. Bystanders dress in patriotic clothing from top to bottom, with the national colors of red, green, and white. Vendors line the streets selling authentic Mexican delicacies, as well as streamers, decorations, and other knick-knacks.

Unlike elsewhere in the country, the citizens of Puebla are treated to a bank-holiday style day, where school children are let out of class, businesses are shut down, and families join together. You’ll often see many children featured in the festivities throughout the city, from participating in the parades to joining in on the dances and music.

Cinco de Mayo Mexico

Fun, laughter, and community are always present throughout Puebla on this special day. The streets are crowded with an electric atmosphere of celebration. It’s even common to run into Mexico’s most famous politicians, celebrities, and military officials enjoying the splendor. At night, it’s possible to see elaborate fireworks displays alongside folkloric dances and typical Mexican costumes. Even in the chance of rain, the festivities continue into the late hours of the night!

Created by Mandy Burkholder