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May 2014

Cinco de Mayo Around the World

Cinco de Mayo is likely one of the easiest holidays to remember, as it translates directly from Spanish as “5th of May”. Celebrated mainly in the United States and Mexico, it celebrates the victory of the Mexican army over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1982. The festival is a celebration of Mexican heritage, one that has now spread around the world due to its popularity, however it is not Mexico’s national independence day, as many believe. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo originates from the Mexican-American communities in the American West as a celebration of the end of the American Civil War.

Traditional Cinco de Mayo cuisine includes famous items like tamales, guacamole, and chips and salsa. Festive drinks include the popular margarita and the michelada, beer served with lime and salt (though recent renditions include the use of soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce). Traditional Cinco de Mayo desserts include the tres leches cake, a creamy cake made from three kinds of milk: sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream. Pan dulce, a sweet bread, is another popular dessert item.


The anniversary of the Battle of Puebla (known as “Battle of Puebla Day” or “Battle of Cinco de Mayo”) is an official holiday in the Mexican State of Puebla. Though not a national holiday, public schools are closed and many get the day off of work. A parade is held in Puebla, located just east of Mexico City, however little celebration is held beyond this in the country.

United States

Cinco de Mayo is more widely celebrated in the United States than in Mexico, oddly enough, celebrated often with a number of festivities and the consumption of Mexican foods and (often alcoholic) drinks. Beyond the partying, the day is honored with special events filled with displays of Mexican heritage, from folk dancing to mariachi demonstrations. Areas of the country with dominant Hispanic communities have the most vibrant festivals; California has celebrated Cinco de Mayo continuously since 1863.


Cinco de Mayo isn’t celebrated in Canada as vibrantly as it is in the United States, however festivities still endure. The Abbotsford Skydive Center in Vancouver, for example, hosts an annual Cinco de Mayo skydiving event, complete with food (hopefully consumed after skydiving), an air show and live music.


While Spain doesn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo, a similar festival known as Dos de Mayo (“2nd of May”) is held. Dos de Mayo honors the French defeat in 1808 at the hands of Spanish forces, celebrated mostly around Madrid. Similar to the Battle of Puebla celebrations, Dos de Mayo is a regional holiday.

Cayman Islands

Perhaps most unique of all the Cinco de Mayo celebrations is the annual air guitar competition held at the local Hard Rock Cafe in the Cayman Islands. Live music, American cuisine and much drinking are also on hand While hardly a celebration of Mexican culture, it is, at the very least, a tribute to liberalisation itself.

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