Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Cinco de Mayo

Learn about Cinco de Mayo. Get the best articles, books, eBooks, media and open access sources for Cinco de Mayo.

Mexico, the 5th of May in the Plaza de Armas, 1862

Cinco de Mayo

Thanks to the Library of Congress for the use of the image below of Mexico, the 5th of May in the Plaza de Armas, 1862.

What is Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo means “the fifth of May.” It commemorates the Battle of Puebla, an important event in the fight for Mexican independence. In this battle, a badly outnumbered band of Mexicans fought off the French army, which at that time was one of the most highly trained armies in Europe. For Mexicans and Mexican Americans, Cinco de Mayo represents the courage, resourcefulness, and determination of the Mexican people. It also symbolizes the thrill of an underdog victory against a mighty enemy.

Cinco de Mayo is widely celebrated in the United States—perhaps even more celebrated than in Mexico itself. Social commentators have proposed several reasons for this. Some suggest that because Mexican Americans are a minority within the United States, they feel more strongly aligned with the “clever underdog” theme of Cinco de Mayo than do the people living in Mexico. Historians also point out that Cinco de Mayo commemorations have a long history in the U.S. For example, the Mexican community in San Francisco held its first Cinco de Mayo celebration in 1863, a year after the battle took place. Although the date is honored throughout Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is most widely celebrated in the state of Puebla and in Mexico City. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated throughout the southwestern states, where many Mexican Americans live, and in large cities that have significant populations of Mexican Americans. Many celebrations include BALLET FOLKLóRICOMEXICAN FOODMARIACHI MUSIC, and PARADES.

The strong nationalistic themes of the holiday have led some people to confuse Cinco de Mayo with Mexican Independence Day. In fact, Mexico celebrates its independence day on September 16. The fight for Mexican independence from Spain began on this day in 1810.

Learn more on CREDO Cinco de Mayo (login with your COM account for off campus access).

Hispanic American, Latin American & Spanish Guides