Cinco de Mayo: Quick Facts and History
Did you know that…
- Cinco de Mayo means “the fifth of May.” Many people believe it is Mexico’s Independence Day, but that is incorrect. (Mexico’s Independence Day is September 16.) Rather, Cinco de Mayo is the anniversary of a battle that took place between the Mexicans and the French in 1862.
- The battle is known as the Battle of Puebla, and it celebrates Mexico’s victory over the French. It also marks a turning point in Mexican national pride. A small, poorly armed group of about 4,500 men were able to stop the French invasion of a well-equipped French army that had about 6,500 or even 8,000 soldiers. The victory made the Mexican people very happy, and helped create a feeling of national unity.
- While Cinco de Mayo is a national holiday in Mexico, it is mainly observed in the state capital of Puebla. However, in the United States, it is becoming a popular holiday to celebrate Mexican culture. Kids and families can try delicious Mexican food, listen and dance to Mexican music, make and admire Mexican art, and shop for fun souvenirs and products at markets called “Mercado.”
- The largest Cinco de Mayo event in the world is held in Los Angeles, California, where more than 600,000 people celebrate with music and food. The whole event is called Festival de Fiesta Broadway. Two other big festival are held far from Mexico, in Denver, Colorado, and St Paul’s, Minnesota, but they draw hundreds of thousands of participants.
- The Cinco de Mayo festival in Chandler, Arizona, is known for its Chihuahuas! There are Chihuahua parade, races and pageants. At the end, a King and Queen of the Chihuahuas are crowned.
- There aren’t any specific foods associated with Cinco de Mayo, but traditional Mexican dishes such as enchiladas, burritos, guacamole and tacos are popular.
- Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city, is where the Mexican Hat Dance, sombreros and mariachi music are believed to have originated.
- A Mexican cowboy is called a “charro.” A Mexican rodeo is called a “charreada.”
- In pre-Columbian times (before Mexico was colonized by Europeans), the inhabitants of what is now Mexico had a richly developed artistic tradition. For example, the Mayans were known for their detailed calendar, wall paintings, and architecture that included stone palaces and temples. The Olmec are often credited with inventing writing, and created incredible jade art. The Aztec were known for goldwork, magnificent stone buildings and beautiful fabrics. These artistic traditions live on in Mexico today.
- The population of Mexico is more than 106 million.
- The Mexican flag is green, white and red. The traditional meaning of the colors is thought to be that green stands for hope and the independence movement; white for purity and religion and red for Spain and union. The emblem in the middle consists of an eagle and a snake, based on an Aztec legend.