Cinco de Mayo – a day rarely celebrated in Mexico and yet it is a day that is widely known and celebrated in America.
It is the day that Mexico won a battle that was thought to be impossible to win. It was the Battle of Puebla where 1,000 loyal Mexicans fought over 6,000 French soldiers. Mexico prevailed, having only lost 100 soldiers whereas the French army’s casualties numbered over 500. This led to the French army retreating. In honor of this great battle, some of the Cinco de Mayo traditions and celebrations include parades and reenacting the Battle of Puebla.
According to a paper published by the UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, Cinco de Mayo was first celebrated in California in 1863 as a way to pay homage to the battle and the way it brought together all Latinos in California – immigrants from Mexico, South America, Central America, and those born in California.
However, Cinco de Mayo was not widely celebrated in America until the 1960s when Chicano activists brought awareness to the holiday as a way to honor Mexican culture and heritage. Many Americans today celebrate Cinco de Mayo with traditional Mexican dances, mariachi music, parades, parties, and traditional food.
The most popular and largest Cinco de Mayo celebrations occur in areas where there is a large Mexican-American population, such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and Huston.