The History of Cinco De Mayo—and Where To Celebrate

In Dine, Los Cabos by Suzanne Koch

With Cinco de Mayo quickly approaching and countless celebrations of tequila shots and piñatas since the day that started it all, it’s easy to wonder how a celebration of Mexico’s victory over the French turned into a largely American holiday of excessive drinking and colorful fiestas.

Cinco de Mayo is the day that commemorates Mexico’s victory at the Battle of Puebla in 1862—a time when the United States was simultaneously engulfed in its own tumultuous war: the Civil War. The French, with a presence south of the border, saw an opportunity to support the Confederate Army if they could gain power in Mexico. Instead, the French were defeated by the Mexican army allowing the U.S. Union forces to advance and Mexico to keep its independence against French rule. As a turning point in the Civil War, the United States first celebrated Cinco de Mayo the following year in 1863 in Southern California as a show of solidarity with Mexico against French rule. The day of celebration continued each year, gaining momentum and popularity. By the 1930’s the day was seen as a celebration of Mexican identity and by the 50’s and 60’s it became popular among Mexican-American youths. The bi-national holiday soon became a day of ethnic pride until it reached wide-scale commercialized success in the 1980’s when all things Mexican—food, drinks, traditions, culture and more—were celebrated. It also doesn’t hurt that it became another excuse to intake excess amounts of tequila and tortilla chips.

Today, Americans go all out while in Mexico, the day is celebrated in a very low-key manner. While students get the day off, banks and government offices remain open and the only major fiesta that takes place is in the city of Puebla, where every year a military parade and mock battle is staged to commemorate the day.


This year, those in Cabo can celebrate with an all you can eat and drink special at Tenangos! From 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, May 5 the Mexican restaurant will be cooking and pouring up favorite regional specialties. Located at The Shoppes at Palmilla, the restaurant is complemented by a gorgeous patio area that overlooks the Sea of Cortes and Palmilla Golf Club.

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