Unless you live in North America or Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is a holiday you may not be familiar with. Many people outside Mexico mistakenly believe that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican independence like the 4th of July in the United States. In actuality, Cinco de Mayo takes place on the 5th of May each year, and it was first commemorated to celebrate the hard-won victory of the Mexican army in 1862 against the French in the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War.  

From historical victory to drinking holiday

If you ask people today, most would agree that Cinco de Mayo is more of an American holiday than a Mexican celebration. Historically, it was a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, except for in Pueblo, where the historic battle was fought and won in 1862. Mexican independence is celebrated in Mexico on September 16th of each year and was declared more than 50 years before the Battle of Puebla. Cinco de Mayo was first recognized and observed in the United States in 1933 after President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the “Good Neighbor Policy” in a move to improve relations with Latin American countries. It did not begin to gain traction in the US until the 1970’s, and 80’s when beer companies latched onto the holiday to market their beers directly to the rapidly growing Hispanic consumers. It was at this time that the holiday morphed into the popular “drinking holiday” that it is today. Nowadays; people will mark the occasion with parades, parties, mariachi music, Mexican folk dancing and a plethora of delicious Mexican foods. The beer companies did ultimately have a considerable influence on the holiday as ice cold cerveza (beer) is a mainstay of any Cinco de Mayo fiesta; along with copious amounts of tequila, mezcal and the ever-popular margarita in all its incarnations.

Where to go for Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is widely celebrated in North America and has regained some popularity in pockets of Mexico, especially those that cater to tourists from the US and Canada. Some of the most significant festivals are held in Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, and Houston. Los Angeles, California is home to one of the biggest Cinco de Mayo parties in the world. This energetic street party is called the “Fiesta Broadway” and attracts hundreds of thousands of people each year. Everyone is welcome, and the event showcases live musical performances, cultural dance performances, traditional Mexican food and much more. Houston, Texas is another fascinating city to visit to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. One of the biggest events, the “Ritaville Fest,” is an outdoor festival held in downtown Houston. It is a lively celebration of Mexican culture, with Mexican food, Mexican beer, and margaritas available for your eating and drinking pleasure. Live entertainment and interactive games will keep the action going well into the night, and the event even has taco eating and jalapeno eating competitions for those who like to “kick it up a notch.” Head to Spring, Texas for the “Texas Taco Tequila & Margarita Festival X Cinco de Mayo” where you can immerse yourself in some unique cultural experiences while enjoying the best tacos, tequila, and margaritas. You can additionally enjoy live performances by Los Skarnales, Gio Chamba, Bamuaya, Latin Paradise and several mariachi bands. They have a kid’s area with inflatables, rides, live monkeys, cultural performances, boutique vendors and carnival rides. San Antonio, Texas is another city that goes into overdrive during Cinco de Mayo, and you will find theme events going on throughout the city including a Cinco de May Casino night, Mexican BBQ, and several pub crawls.
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Find your Mexican Roots  

For some people, the best way to experience Cinco de Mayo is to head south of the border and plan a holiday in Mexico. You can always visit Tijuana or Baja California for a day trip, or go to the all-inclusive resorts in Cabo San Lucas, Cancun and Cozumel where you can have a hedonistic and alcohol-fueled Mexican holiday. If you prefer to get off the beaten track and dive into the real history behind this holiday then make your way to Puebla, Mexico, the historic location where it all began. You can book an unforgettable city tour to learn all about the region’s pre-Hispanic and colonial heritage and visit its monuments and archaeological sites. A visit to the Cinco de Mayo Civic Cultural Center should be at the top of your list, as it is here that you can learn the history behind the holiday in a much more in-depth and profound way; focusing on the historical significance and how it affected the people within the region. During May, Pueblo also plays host to their annual Cinco de Mayo Fair, as well as the Feria de Puebla which showcases cultural, culinary and artistic events.  You will also be able to visit multiple museums that tell the natural and sociological history of Puebla and experience Cinco de Mayo in a unique and memorable way.
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Melisa Richter author profile

Melissa is a passionate foodie, travel writer, and editor working in media internationally and in the USA. She has lived in Bangkok since 2004 and has a background in the travel industry. Melissa’s writing has been published globally in many prestigious online and print magazines for over a decade. Her motto for life is “You cannot live or love well if you have not wined and dined well!”