Cinco de Mayo - A Celebration of Mexico's Defeat of the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862

Cinco de Mayo, which is “Fifth of May” in Spanish, is a holiday celebrating the date of May 5, 1862.  On that date, the outnumbered Mexican army came out victorious over the powerful and invading French army, at the Battle of Puebla, during the French-Mexican War (lasting from 1861 to 1867).  The day is also known as the Battle of Puebla Day.  The day of this battle amid this war was extremely important for Mexico, showing its ability to defend its sovereignty against a much larger, well-equipped, and foreign nation.  There is a common misunderstanding that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day.  It is not.  Cinco de Mayo honors a single battle.  In 1867, with the help of the United States, France finally withdrew from the war.  Mexico maintained its sovereignty.

Events leading to the day of celebration began in 1861 when Benito Juárez was elected President.  At the time, the country was having financial problems and what turned into a dangerous amount of debt.  Mexico was defaulting on loans and was at financial risk.  In response, France, Britain, and Spain sent naval forces to Mexico, demanding repayment.  Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew their forces.  France, however, ruled, by Napoleon III, decided to take advantage of a possible opportunity and attempted to invade and take over the territory.

Cinco de Mayo, today, is a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage within the Mexican American community.  It is not as largely celebrated in Mexico.  This may have been due in part to advocates having raised awareness of the victory and now holiday, here in the United States, in the 1960s. Cinco de Mayo is customarily celebrated with parades, parties, mariachi music, Mexican folk dancing, and traditional Mexican culinary dishes such as tacos and mole poblano.  Some of the largest Cinco De Mayo festivals are held in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston.

Below are ten ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo:

  1. Learn the history of Cinco de Mayo.
  2. Teach kids fun facts about Mexican culture.
  3. Make a traditional Mexican dish at home.
  4. Eat at an authentic Mexican restaurant.
  5. Put up colorful decorations.
  6. Listen to traditional Mexican music.
  7. Attend a local parade or festival.
  8. Visit museums honoring Mexican art and culture.
  9. Read Mexican literature. A few suggestions are the following: 

    Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel

    The Labyrinth of Solitude, by Octavio Paz

    The Death of Artemio Cruz, by Carlos Fuentes

    Guardian Devil, by Xavier Velasco


  •      Remember to be respectful.

Ruby Delarosa, Esq. is an associate in the firm’s Mt. Laurel office and a member of the firm’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee.