Cinco de Mayo: The differences in celebrations in Mexico vs the United States


Cinco de Mayo (or 5th of May) is celebrated, as the name implies, each year on May 5. There are a lot of misconceptions about the day and what it represents, in large part because the celebration has quite a different meaning in Mexico than the United States.

Cinco de Mayo is not largely celebrated in Mexico and is not a federal holiday in the country. In fact, the day is much more celebrated in the United States. 

The United States’ Cinco de Mayo celebrations and traditions are very different compared to those in Mexico in many ways. First, the reason for celebrating differs between the two countries as well as how celebrations occur.

Cinco de Mayo is more of a celebration in the United States than it is in Mexico. ( Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

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Read on for facts about Cinco de Mayo in the United States vs Mexico.

  1. What does Cinco de Mayo represent in Mexico?
  2. What does Cinco de Mayo represent in the United States?
  3. How is Cinco de Mayo celebrated in Mexico?
  4. How is Cinco de Mayo celebrated in the United States?

1. What does Cinco de Mayo represent in Mexico? 

Cinco de Mayo is often confused with Mexican Independence Day, but the two are very different. 

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo celebrates the country’s victory over France during the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

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Three tacos on a plate

Tacos are popular Mexican cuisine eaten on Cinco de Mayo. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Mexican Independence Day, which takes place each year on Sept. 16, celebrates Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1810, according to NationalToday.com.

2. What does Cinco de Mayo represent in the United States?

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has become a day that celebrates Mexican culture. The holiday gained popularity in the U.S. in the 1960s, according to History.com.

3. How is Cinco de Mayo celebrated in Mexico?

The rather ironic truth about Cinco de Mayo is that it really is not celebrated in Mexico, and it is a much bigger celebration in the U.S.

The day is not a federal holiday in Mexico, so all businesses are open and operate as usual. For Mexico as a whole, it is a pretty minor holiday and throughout the country the natives in Puebla are typically the people who celebrate most.

Someone pouring a margarita

Lots of tequila is consumed on Cinco de Mayo, whether it be in a shot or in a margarita. (Dai Sugano/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

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In Puebla, there are often recreations of the Battle of Puebla and military parades in celebration of Cinco de Mayo.

4. How is Cinco de Mayo celebrated in the United States?

In the United States, the Cinco de Mayo parties go late into the night. The day is celebrated with traditional Mexican food and drinks like tacos and margaritas. People all over the country dance to mariachi music, host enormous parties and throw packed parades.

Cinco de Mayo celebrations occur in states all across the country, but especially in those with large Mexican-American populations.

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Mexican dancers dancing at a MLB game

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is often celebrated with Mexican music and dancing. (Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Los Angeles is home to some of the biggest Cinco de Mayo events in the country including Fiesta Broadway. Cinco de Mayo is also commonly celebrated in Texas, especially in the south-central part of the state with the Fiesta San Antonio. Chicago is also a popular city filled with Mexican culture. 



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