Cinco de Mayo falls on May 5 every year. Get your kids in the spirit by sharing these 10 fun facts.

By Ellen Neuborne and Nicole Harris
Updated April 29, 2020

The fifth of May (Cinco de Mayo in Spanish) is a national holiday in Mexico, although it’s generally celebrated in Mexican-American communities in the U.S. on a much larger scale. Get your kids excited about the holiday with these 10 fun facts about Cinco de Mayo.

1. Cinco de Mayo isn’t Mexico’s independence day.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican victory over the French at the battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It’s often confused with the Mexican Independence Day, which actually occurred on September 16, 1810—about 50 years earlier.

2. Mexico’s victory at the battle of Puebla is historically significant.

Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin led his people to victory in the battle of Puebla, even though his troops had fewer men and less equipment. It was an important step in Mexico’s fight for independence—but Mexico didn’t end up winning the Franco-Mexican War. The country fell to French rule under Emperor Maximilian of Austria for several years.

3. A different outcome in the battle of Puebla may have altered the American Civil War.

If France ended up victorious, Napoleon III might’ve changed the outcome of the American Civil War. That’s because he planned to turn Puebla into a base to help the Confederate Army.

4. Cinco de Mayo isn't a federal holiday in Mexico.

Cinco de Mayo isn’t a federal holiday in Mexico, so the offices, banks, and stores remain open. In fact, celebrations mainly center around the state of Puebla, which was the site of the 1862 battle. Puebla residents participate in a battle reenactment, watch fireworks, and attend a parade. 

5. It was popularized in the United States in the mid-1900s.

You can partially thank President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy.” Enacted in 1933, it sought to improve the relationship between America and Latin American countries. Cinco de Mayo also gained popularity through Chicano activists in the 1960s and 1970s, who identified with the Mexican Indian and mestizo (people of Mexican Indian and European descent) soldiers' triumph over European conquest attempts.

6. In America, Cinco de Mayo is popular among people of Mexican descent.

Cinco de Mayo is one of more than 365 festivals celebrated by people of Mexican descent. Cities such as Chicago and Houston host annual Cinco de Mayo events that draw hundreds of thousands of celebrants. Los Angeles has one of the largest celebrations, which includes the Fiesta Broadway street festival in honor of Latin American culture. 

Credit: Kobby Dagan/Shutterstock

7. People celebrate with authentic clothing and food.

May 5 brings parties, fiestas, and parades. People indulge in Mexican cuisine, wear colorful "Puebla dresses,” and listen to mariachi music. Chandler, Arizona, also hosts chihuahua races for the holiday.  

8. There’s an official dish of Cinco de Mayo.

Although everyone loves tacos and margaritas, the official dish of Cinco de Mayo is considered mole poblano. This rich-tasting dark red-brown sauce contains chocolate, chili pepper, and spices. It’s also eaten in Puebla, Mexico, on the holiday.

9. Avocado sales increase on Cinco de Mayo.

Since Americans eat plenty of guacamole on Cinco de Mayo, avocado sales boom every year. In fact, according to the California Avocado Commission, people consume 87 million pounds of avocados for the holiday. Unsurprisingly, May 5 also sees an uptick in margarita sales.

10. Other countries celebrate too.

For example, Vancouver, Canada, hosts a “skydiving boogie” with aerial acrobatics. The Cayman Islands also puts on an air guitar competition.  

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