THE REAL CINCO DE MAYO – Student Article

What you need to know for the holiday

By Bella Peña

What is Cinco de Mayo? 

Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

Cinco de Mayo is an annual Mexican holiday, celebrated on May 5th, where people just eat tacos, hit piñatas and drink refrescos, right? While many Hispanics may enjoy partying, that isn’t what this holiday is all about. Cinco de Mayo is often stereotyped by people who don’t know the real meaning behind this holiday. 

Historical Background

Like most holidays, there is usually a deeper meaning. Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of the Mexican victory over French forces during the Battle of Puebla that occurred on May 5, 1862. The reason Mexican people celebrate Cinco de Mayo is because they ultimately won their country back from being under France’s power. This little victory of the smaller Mexican force against a larger French force was a morale boost for the Mexicans. 

Mexico had no control over their country, culture or people. Mexico declared war on the French on May 5, 1862, but the conflict had been going on for a year before that. In 1861, Benito Juarez, the president of Mexico at the time, suspended the payment of interest on the money he owed several countries, including France. This was only the beginning of the situation. Of course, France wasn’t too fond of not getting their payments. This led to France invading Mexico. The Battle of Puebla was just one of the battles in a six year war; the surprise victory helped to bolster the resistance. 

Cinco de Mayo in Mexico

Cinco de Mayo is highly honored in the state of Puebla, of course. In the state of Puebla, traditions include military parades, recreations of the Battle of Puebla, art festivals and other festive events. Cinco de Mayo is often mistaken for Mexico’s independence day, but that is celebrated on September 16th and is known as el Grito de Dolores (the Cry of Dolores). 

Celebrating Respectfully

Cinco de Mayo, while still a Mexican holiday, is celebrated more in the United States than in Mexico itself to honor Mexican-American culture. These celebrations began in California in the year 1863 and gained worldwide recognition in the 1980’s due to the campaigns of beer and wine companies.

If you enjoy celebrating this festive holiday, here’s how to celebrate it while honoring what it really means. When celebrating Cinco de Mayo, remember the real meaning of the holiday: Mexico’s fight for freedom from the French. Learn more about the war. Make sure you know the difference between racism and celebration. You can admire the beauty of Mexican culture without appropriating the culture, making a parody of the country or disrespecting Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. Some examples of appropriation are wearing sombreros or a fake mustache or dressing up like a mariachi. You can definitely have fun in a hoodie and sweats. Also when using Spanish vocabulary, try to use it appropriately. 

Have Fun!

Photo by Sabel Blanco from Pexels

Remember that this is a Mexican and Mexican-American holiday. This is a celebration, so have fun with it! Have a tasty burrito, drink some ice cold margaritas and jam out to festive Mexican music.




As you can see, Cinco de Mayo is more than tamales, sombreros and mariachi music. It’s about celebrating the triumph of an outnumbered army over its oppressor. I hope you all have a wonderful Cinco de Mayo! Feliz Cinco de Mayo!  


Bella Peña is a 16-year-old Mexican-Puerto Rican sophomore at Century High School. Her family does not participate in Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the USA.




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