Cinco De Mayo 2024 is this Sunday. How it’s celebrated in US vs Mexico


Cinco de Mayo is right on the horizon.

The Mexican holiday celebrates the day a small Mexican army defeated a much larger French Army in the Battle of Puebla.

But over the years, it’s also become a big holiday in the United States. Every year, people in the U.S. enjoy mixing up margaritas, eating Mexican food and participating in community events on the holiday.

But the holiday actually looks a little different in Mexico, where Cinco de Mayo is not the biggest Mexican holiday and some Mexicans feel that the holiday has been “Americanized.” Here’s what to know about the holiday.

When is Cinco De Mayo in 2024?

The holiday is always celebrated on May 5. This year, that falls on a Sunday.

What is the history of Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco De Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla when Mexico defeated the French army. In 1862, French Emperor Napoleon III wanted to claim Mexican territory for himself, so he sent his troops to force Mexico’s President Benito Juárez and his government out of Veracruz.

On May 5, in Puebla de Los Angeles – located in central Mexico – 6,000 French troops faced 2,000 Mexican soldiers at daybreak, according to History.com Despite the overwhelming odds, by that night Mexico has claimed victory.

A few days later, Juárez designated May 5 as a holiday.

When did Cinco de Mayo become popular in America?

Mario García, a Chicanx historian from UC Santa Barbara, told USA TODAY previously the victory wasn’t celebrated in Mexico at first, but rather by Mexican Americans as a form of resistance to the effects of the Mexican-American War. The holiday then picked up more traction during the Chicano Movement during the 1960s and 1970s.

“It becomes a Chicano holiday, in many ways, linked to the Chicano movement, because we discover Mexicans resisting a foreign invader,” García said. “They link the struggle of the Chicano movement to Cinco de Mayo.”

It was late in the Chicano Movement when companies began to sell the idea of Cinco De Mayo. In the 1980s, García said companies began commercializing the holiday.

How is Cinco De Mayo celebrated in the U.S. versus Mexico now?

Cinco De Mayo is now celebrated more widely in American than in Mexico.  A 2020 survey from YouGov found only 40% of Americans knew May 5 wasn’t commemorating the country’s independence. 

“Our most important celebration is Sept. 16 – that is our Independence Day,” said Silvia Lugo Garcia, who has lived in Mexico her whole life. “The fifth of May is not the biggest celebration in Mexico – for us it only a (routine) celebration.”

She added that Cinco de Mayo “is not a public holiday” for a lot of Mexico. She explained the celebrations mainly take place in Puebla, because of the historic battle which occurred there.

As the holiday has become more commercialized in the U.S., some have taken issue with the Americanization of the holiday.

García said he has no problem with going out to Mexican restaurants to eat and drink as a way to celebrate. He views it as a “two-way sword,” in that commercialization does take away from Cinco De Mayo, but there’s a push to educate people on the holiday’s meaning. It’s fine to celebrate, as long as they get the message of the day and how it’s still relevant to today. 

“If people understand the true meaning of Cinco de Mayo, they might think about, well, how is it applicable to the Hispanic and Latino population today?” he said. 

What is Cinco de Mayo? The holiday’s origin and why it’s celebrated in Mexico, US

So what is Mexican Independent Day?

Mexican Independence Day is celebrated each year to remember the end of the 300 year Spanish rule over Mexico.

“The native population was oppressed, farmland and personal wealth were confiscated and only Spaniards were allowed to hold political posts,” according to National Today. “Finally, a Catholic priest in the town of Dolores named Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla had enough.”

On Sept. 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang his church’s bell and called for the end of Spanish rule. This started the Mexican War of Independence, which lasted over a decade, according to National Today.

On Aug. 24, 1821, Spain recognized Mexico as an independent country.

The country celebrates by lighting off fireworks, according to Britannica.com, which added the celebrations are also based in eating delicious food.

USA Today contributed to this report.


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