Why is Cinco de Mayo More Popular in the United States Than in Mexico? All About This Unique Mexican Holiday

To most Americans, the holiday Cinco de Mayo has become much more about margaritas and parties than the Mexican history that inspired this day of remembrance. 

Not many people in the U.S. know that Cinco de Mayo is less popular for Mexican families. In fact, many people living in Mexico don’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo at all! 

So how did a day commemorating a critical part of Mexico’s history become such a popular tradition in the United States?

Today, we’re breaking down the history of Cinco de Mayo: what it is, why it’s celebrated, and how best to get into the spirit.

What is Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo, Spanish for “the fifth of May,” commemorates a critical Mexican victory over France on May 5th, 1862. On this day, Mexican fighters led by General Ignacio Zaragoza clashed with the invading French army in Puebla. 

Despite being vastly outnumbered and fighting with weaker weapons, the Mexican army valiantly defeated French attackers, buying Mexican leadership time to prepare for the next attacks. 

The Battle of Puebla occurred during the French occupation of Mexico under Emperor Napoleon III, which ran from 1862 to 1867. It was a period of great struggle and grief for Mexican people, which is why the Battle of Puebla was such a major boost to morale. 

Internationally, the Battle of Puebla also proved that the seemingly-invincible French army could be beaten. This had far-reaching impacts, like the French choosing not to support the Confederacy during the American Civil War. 

Often mistaken for Mexico’s Independence Day (which is celebrated on September 16th), Cinco de Mayo is a day of remembrance in modern Mexico. Celebrations largely stay within the Puebla area, with parades, speeches, and reenactments of the historic 1862 battle. 

Why is Cinco de Mayo celebrated in the United States?

Part of why Cinco de Mayo is such a big celebration in the United States is because of 19th-century Mexican immigrants living in the US during the Battle of Puebla. Mexican-Americans followed news from home about the French occupation, and many shared sentiments of worry and patriotism.

So when the news came from Puebla that Mexico had won such a definitive battle in Puebla, Mexican people living in the US felt huge amounts of pride, enthusiasm, and excitement. For families who emigrated from Mexico, Cinco de Mayo became a day to explore what it means to be Mexican outside of the country. 

Today, many Mexican-American families see Cinco de Mayo as a way of celebrating their heritage. It’s only in the last twenty years or so that it’s become such a commercial holiday, what Arizona State Univeristy professor Alexander Aviña calls “a party holiday.” 

“For 100 years, [Cinco de Mayo] was a way for Mexicans in the US to proudly assert their Mexican heritage however they saw fit,” he said in an interview with The Arizona Republic. “[Today], people of Mexican descent in the U.S. celebrate as a way to reaffirm a certain type of national cultural pride.” But for others, Cinco de Mayo has “become really fueled by commercial interests, like just another day people can go and consume.” 

How do you celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the United States?

In the US, Cinco de Mayo can be seen as a festival celebrating all things Mexican. Block parties, festivals, and community events celebrating Mexican history and culture are popular parts of the big day. Many Mexican-American communities put on parades, traditional music and dance performances, and historic reenactments of the Battle of Puebla. 

And of course, who can forget the food? Cinco de Mayo in the United States is a time filled with spiced fajitas, delicious guacamole, and just about every tamale, enchilada, and tostada recipe you can think of. It’s also become a time for partying: the tequila flows, the music blasts, and people dress up to celebrate the bright and colorful aspects of Mexican heritage. 

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with MexiCrate

At MexiCrate, we’d love to be part of your Cinco de Mayo celebrations, in the United States and abroad. Our monthly variety boxes feature a new theme this month, offering an introduction to Mexico’s delightful candy culture. 

Did you know we also offer corporate and large-group bulk orders? Let MexiCrate fuel your organization’s Cinco de Mayo celebration with your favorite Mexican flavors, like chocolate, tamarindo, chamoy, and more. 

Take a look at our full dulceria to find your favorites, or get in touch with our team at orders@mexicrate.com. We’ll reach out to you to discuss your requirements and needs.

We can drop ship to individual locations and provide bulk custom ordering for parties, non-profit raffles, corporate packages and more. For more information, check out more information on our Event & Bulk Orders page.

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