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The history of Cinco de Mayo and its celebrations through the years

Much like anything in our modern world, celebrations must be taken with a grain of salt. In today’s case – that salt will likely go between your thumb and index finger prior to a tequila shot! Cinco de Mayo is here, so we thought there would be no better time to learn about the history of its celebrations.

The fact of the matter is, we must look into its origins. And we must go beyond the surface level to truly understand what Cinco de Mayo represents. 

Cinco de Mayo history: It is not the day Mexican citizens declared their independence

The reason why Cinco de Mayo is synonymous with Mexican independence is due to their improbable defeat of the French in the Battle of Puebla. In 1860, France nearly tripled the size of Ignacio Zaragoza’s army but did not emerge victorious. 

cinco de mayo history
A cartoon depiction of the 1860 Battle of Puebla (Credit: Phas)

Little known fact: This underdog victory diminished the French aid to the Confederacy, which essentially boosted the Union’s chances during the Civil War.

Cinco de Mayo is a day of Mexican pride and heritage

The Battle of Puebla was extremely uplifting for a fractured nation. They put the clamps on France’s second invasion attempt in less than 50 years.

This victory, and thus Cinco de Mayo, is associated with widespread celebration as it provided morale, pride, and unity for a country opposed to monarchic rule in favor of liberty.

Mexico trudged and traversed through Puebla where they marked their territory in the Northern Fort of Guadalupe (Credit: Francisco Guasco)

Surprisingly enough, Cinco de Mayo is much larger in the United States. The reason being, the holiday has been commercialized out of the wazoo in order to reach into American pockets. In reality, it is just a day off for Mexicans. 

The only region that heavily celebrates Cinco de Mayo in Mexico is Puebla. There is a battle reenactment, fireworks and a parade that marches to the Fort of Guadalupe where victory was declared.

The United States’ “Manifest Destiny” endeavors had caused it to garner quite the reputation. Many neighboring countries viewed America as the bad boy of the Western world – ready and able to absorb the territory of weaker nations.

FDR hoped to transform America’s representation. His policy sought to enact cooperation, trade, and relationship building as opposed to military presence and further division.

Mexican woman
Mexicans fought hard for their liberation.

Some of the ways in which the United States improved its relations with Latin American nations is by deeming them independent.

Once properly recognized, the United States would promptly declare Latin American nations independence which served as a crucial assist from a major foreign power.

cinco de mayo celebrations
Mexican apparel is often vibrant, classy and traditional.

Some Latin Americans still shared harsh sentiments and resentment toward the U.S.A. after the battle of 1846 and the United States providing lip service but not much change in disposition.

A complicated relationship between the two neighboring nations

Many Latin Americans saw right through what the United States was hoping to achieve. One Latin American writer described Americans as:

“Rude and obtuse Calibans swollen with brutal appetites, the enemies of all idealisms, furiously enamored of the dollar, insatiable gulpers of whiskey and sausages—swift, overwhelming, fierce, clownish.”


I thought that was a pretty intense viewpoint, but did not share any qualms with the statement. The way of the world became existent through colonialism. Therefore, territory acquisition and survival did not always occur on the most amicable terms.

Modern adaptations

More times than not, the U.S.A.’s intervention with other nations led to more irritation and enemy-building rather than unity and allyship. Today, it is vital to navigate the modern world with technical finesse, value, and kindness.

cinco de mayo celebrations
Eloquence, mystique and allure surround these talented Mexican women

It is always important to look at national holidays in terms of their contextual purpose. In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is for wholesome and authentic gatherings. In America, Cinco de Mayo is for gluttonous consumption and getting loaded from Coronas. 

Oftentimes, a country’s overarching intentions can be highlighted on holidays such as these. So today, celebrate responsibly and pay homage to apostles like Manuel Agarte whose sentiments against the “Yankee Colossus of the North” helped to plant the seed that sprouted the independent movement and mentality throughout Mexico.