Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a day filled with tacos, tequila, beer, and celebrations, in the United States at least. However, before this day became a reason to drink on a weeknight or day drink on a weekend, a series of events occurred in Puebla, Mexico which led to an unexpected victory over France on May 5, 1862.
The Battle of Puebla began over a conflict between two countries after Benito Juarez, Mexico’s President at the time, suspended the nation’s foreign debt payments in 1861. This forced Napolean III to respond by sending French troops to invade their land.
Ultimately, the French took over and placed Maximilian I on the throne as emperor. It wasn’t until 1867, when the new Mexican Republic managed to expel the French, that Maximilian I was executed, and control of the country was regained.
Cinco de Mayo, literally meaning “May 5” in Spanish, is mostly celebrated by Mexican-Americans north of the United States border. In fact, it’s been celebrated in California every year since its inception in 1863. Mexicans and Americans in the state came together to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla and use it to raise money and recruit men to aid those still fighting under the leadership of Juarez against the French.
However, Puebla, the town and region southeast of Mexico City, where the holiday originated, also celebrates the historical day. In the early years, celebrating May 5 was mostly about fighting for democracy and freedom against white supremacists and other oppressors, both in Mexico and California.
The May holiday was a message of cultural pride but, slowly shifted away from that around the 1970s and 80’s when brewing companies in the United States began capitalizing on it and the appeal of Mexican restaurants increased.
Jessica Lavariega Monforti, the vice provost at California State University explained, “By the 1990s, most of the public discourse about the day had been refocused on it as a time to consume imported beer, tequila, and Mexican food.”
Cinco De Mayo Traditions Beyond Just Eating Tacos
Aside from the big celebrations that occur, Cinco de Mayo is recognized as any other day on the calendar. “For many Mexicans, however, May 5 is a day like any other. It’s not a federal holiday, so offices, banks, and stores remain open,” shared Dr. Lavariega Monforti.
It’s actually been said that the United States celebrates the holiday more visibly. Well, outside of the state of Puebla, Mexico at least. Residents of Puebla celebrate with historical re-enactments of the Battle of Puebla, parades, mariachi music, colorful costumes, and fireworks.
Alexa, Search “Cinco de Mayo Celebrations Near Me”
No matter the day of the week, when the clock strikes twelve and the fifth of May has officially begun, people in the United States have tunnel vision for beer, margaritas, and tacos. Celebrations dedicated to dance, art, literature, and food are most visible in major cities including New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago, and others.
But, if you look up your local bar you’ll most likely come across some sort of deal on tequila, Mezcal, and Mexican food. With that being said, the United States has absolutely run with the idea of the holiday and commercialized the heck out of it.
Edithann Ramey, chief marketing officer of On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina, stated, “It’s a celebration of the return of Springtime. The sun is out, the weather is nice, and it’s time to celebrate on the patio with margaritas, chips, and queso.” Beginning April 7, almost a month before the actual holiday, the restaurant chain offers $3 beer specials, $5 bar snacks every Thursday through May 5, all joined by $5 Grande margaritas.
Modelo on the other hand focuses on the authenticity of the holiday with ‘Cinco Autentico.’ This online marketplace allows consumers to acquire party supplies such as tableware, pottery, and, other home decor created by the authentic Mexican-American merchants and artisans. “Cinco de Mayo is a time for many to celebrate, but not everyone knows how to authentically honor the holiday and its Mexican roots. As a brand that’s proud of its Mexican heritage, we want to help others ‘Cinco Autentico’, whether it be through drinking our products or by supporting Mexican American artisans who produce festive decor. That’s why we’re so excited to introduce the Modelo Mercado,” shared Greg Gallagher, VP, brand marketing for the Constellation Brands-owned import beer.
Tostitos’ Remix put together an interactive experience for consumers including an online game, based on “Mexican bingo” which encourages them to attempt several TikTok trends and enters them into a drawing to win prizes including a five-carat gold Tostitos scoop necklace and a year’s worth of Tostitos chips. Mexican-American actor Danny Trejo and Mexican singer Sofia Reyes came together with the brand to inspire consumers to “remix” their Cinco de Mayo celebrations. A commercial featuring the two stars encourages celebrators to take a new approach to their snack spreads. They recommend things links a queso fountain, mariachi bands, and ice sculptures.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a proper day without some tequila involved. Milagro used April 15 (tax day) as the base for a Cinco de Mayo reward to its customers. The brand took advantage of the record delays on tax refunds this year by offering customers a $10 refund on their items ranging from $34.99 to $54.99. The refund will come from the “IRS” or Milagro’s Internal Reposado Service.
Jill Palais, senior brand manager of Milagro Tequila expressed, “Tax season is never easy, and finding out that there could be a long wait to receive your refund is not the kind of news you want to celebrate. But - we don’t want delayed refunds to drag down Cinco de Mayo celebrations, so we’re stepping in with a small gesture to help people celebrate with the freshest, brightest 100 percent agave tequila - without worrying about their wallets.”
The fifth of May has evolved into many forms of celebrations across the country. No matter the way your choose to celebrate however, don’t minimize it’s history, keep it authentic, drink responsibly and eat as many tacos as you can possible stomach.