Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that celebrates the strength and resilience of Mexico by commemorating the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over the French in Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War.
Today, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated all over the world with parades, festivals, folk dancing, fiestas and food. The holiday is not as widely observed throughout Mexico, although it is recognized in the town of Puebla with re-enactments that celebrate the pride and heritage of Mexico.
Mexico’s Independence Day, known to Mexicans as El Grito is observed on September 16th. This day commemorates the start of the Mexican War of Independence from Spain in 1810, a war which would continue through September of 1821. This is the more significant day of recognition for Mexicans.
Growing up as a Mexican-American family in Ohio, we really didn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo. It wasn’t until I was in my teen years that it started to become a celebrated day in American culture, but the history of the date was never really explained to me and “googling” information was not going to be an option for another 20-some years. It seemed that the tradition of Cinco de Mayo quickly became a stereotype of taco eating and margarita drinking with no real back story to educate the masses of people who enjoyed partaking in the celebratory nature of the day.
As I’ve gotten older and learned more about my own heritage, I believe that if we really want to honor Mexican culture and communities not just on one day with a celebratory Cinco de Mayo party, it’s important to take a little initiative to educate ourselves on ways we can support Mexican heritage. I love every opportunity to share tastes of food and folkloric crafts passed down through my family with my friends. It’s a great way to initiate conversations about my heritage while enjoying traditional foods and decor.
Here are a few more authentic ways to honor the history of the holiday and celebrate Cinco de Mayo while being culturally conscious and having fun.
• Learn the history of the holiday and its origins, then share your knowledge with others. Educating people about the truth behind the day is a great way to be respectful of the culture.
• Support Mexican businesses. We all love the food, decor, and lifestyle of Mexican culture, so why not find a small business that makes handcrafted pastries, tortillas, pottery or folkloric crafts. They’ll appreciate your business and probably have a story to share about the history of their products.
• Enjoy the foods of Mexico! It’s not all chips and guacamole. Mexican cuisine is diverse, with different ingredients and flavors depending on the region of Mexico it represents. Whether you love meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables, there’s something for everyone’s tastebuds. In general, Mexican foods tend to be spicy with chile based sauces. Hopefully you have a great local restaurant to visit, but if you don’t, try making something at home like chicken enchiladas or tacos de camaron.
• Support the culture of Mexico with trips to galleries and art museums. From the Pre-Columbian period, to the Mexican Revolution to the most modern artists, Mexico is a wealth of creative inspiration when it comes to art.
• Listen to Mexican music. Widely known for its mariachi and ranchera music, northern Mexico is also known for the regional tejano and norteño types of music. Start by finding a great Mexican playlist and learn how to dance the Jarabe Tapatio or a cumbia.
• If you’re more of a spectator, I highly recommend seeing a Baile Folklorico performance. This is a choreographed and theatrical presentation of traditional Mexican dances from various regions, complete with authentic costumes. You might just be ready to put on your dancing shoes once you’ve seen one of these performances.
Check out more of our related articles with great recipes and DIY party hosting ideas to celebrate your authentic Cinco de Mayo celebration!