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What is Cinco De Mayo? Meaning behind Mexican festival explained, how it’s celebrated and food ideas for 2022



Cinco de Mayo – 5 May – is a day of cultural significance in Mexico and the US.

However despite it’s popularity overseas, not many people understand the meaning behind the festival, with many confusing it with Mexican Independence Day.

What is Cinco De Mayo?

Cinco De Mayo marks the astonishing but relatively minor Battle of Puebla – which took place in 1861 – and saw 2,000 Mexican troops successfully defend Veracruz from 6,000 French troops.

It was a small but inspirational victory for Mexico, and four days later, on 9 May 1862, it was declared Cinco de Mayo would be a national holiday.

The battle remains symbolically significant centuries on, and serves as a morale boost for those living in Mexico and beyond.

Contrary to what some believe, it is not Mexico’s Independence Day, which is actually marked on 16 September, commemorating the Cry of Delores, a call to arms that led to the start of the Mexican War of Independence in 1810.

It is also not the Day of the Dead, which is a multi-day holiday usually celebrated on 1 and 2 November, honouring and celebrating friends and family who have died. The day is also known as Día de los Muertos

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How is Cinco De Mayo celebrated?

For many Mexicans, the day is like any other. However in Puebla the festival is marked with historical re-enactments of the Battle of Puebla, parades, music and costumes.

Celebrations are far more extravagant in the US, after beer companies, in particular, targeted Mexican Americans, exhorting them to celebrate their heritage with Coronas, Bud Lights and Dos Equis.

Mexican culture and heritage is especially embarced in areas of the US with a large Mexican-American population, with festivals usually held in areas including Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles.

Cinco De Mayo food

There is no specific Mexican dish associated with the holiday, however those who wish to celebrate can do so with some of Puebla’s own culinary traditions.

Pedro Reyes, a Mexican food writer, said that mole poblano, the chocolate-rich version of mole that originated in Puebla, might be a good pick for a Cinco de Mayo-inspired feast.

If you can’t get your hands on mole you could try chalupa – a selection of small fried tortillas with white rice, fried beans and plantain patties.

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