On May 5, 1862, the Mexican army, against all odds, defeated French forces in the Battle of Puebla. While Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for the 5th of May) is celebrated in the Puebla region, the holiday has taken on more meaning outside of Mexico than within -- similar to how St. Patrick's Day is more popular in the U.S. than in Ireland. On this day, many Mexicans around the world celebrate their Mexican ancestry and many people of all backgrounds take the time to appreciate Mexican culture. Here's how you can enjoy the festivities.
Learn about the significance of Cinco de Mayo. Lots of people think it's Mexico's Independence Day, but that's on September 16. The Battle of Puebla wasn't a turning point in the Mexican and French conflict, as the French invasion succeeded the following year. The significance of the Battle of Puebla is that Mexico was the underdog; at that time, the French Army was considered the greatest military force on the globe, having remained undefeated for 50 years. The Mexican forces were outnumbered (4,500 vs. 6,040) yet after being attacked, they suffered far fewer losses (83 Mexicans died, 462 French died). Talk about beating the odds!
Indulge in Mexican cuisine. For a more authentic experience, steer clear of Mexican fast food chains like Taco Bell and Pollo Loco. Go for an authentic Mexican meal, rather than Tex Mex (Americanized Mexican food). For example, did you know that nachos are rarely eaten in Mexico? And that no one puts cheddar cheese in their tacos or tostadas? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Make-Chiles-Rellenos -- This stuffed pepper dish originated in Puebla. Try to use Poblano peppers, which originated in Puebla.
Make-Mole-Sauce -- There are many different kinds of mole sauce in Mexico, but the most popular ones are from the Mexican states of Puebla and Oaxaca.
Make-Hot-Tamales -- Although tamales are enjoyed throughout Latin America, they are especially popular in Mexico.
Tequila -- The plant from which tequila is made, blue agave, is cultivated (mostly) in Mexico. There are a variety of drinks you can make with tequila, like a margarita, tequila sunrise, or Cinco de Mayo cocktail: 2 1/2 oz. tequila, 1 oz. grenadine, and 1 oz. lime juice combined with ice in a shaker, strained into a chilled cocktail glass, and Garnishwith a lime.
Decorate Mexican style.
Make a Traditional Pinata and use it as decoration or as a fun activity for the kids (and adults!) later on.
Use the colors of the Mexican flag -- green, white and red -- on your clothing, accessories, or anywhere else that you may find it relevant.
Buy or Make Your Own Mexican Maracas
Throw on a sombrero.
Put on some Mexican music and dance! There's more to Mexican music than mariachi bands. There's Tejano (TexMex), banda (sounds like polka), Mexican cumbia, and all of these are fun to dance to. Get some CDs, look up some instructional dance videos online, invite the neighbors and have fun!
If there's a parade in your area, go to it! This would be an excellent way to celebrate the holiday with your community.
If you are going to a Mexican party and plan to drink, choose a designated driver for going home. Make sure to drink responsibly.
Don't confuse Cinco de Mayo with Mexican Independence Day (September 16).