Cinco de Mayo: Savor the spirit of Mexico on the 5th of May

TUESDAY, MAY 5: Cue the mariachi music and serve the tortillas—it’s Cinco de Mayo!

Spanish for the fifth of May, Cinco de Mayo recalls the Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. A true underdog story, Mexico was exhausted and in debt from years of fighting when its poorly equipped, outnumbered militia took on the well-outfitted, larger French army that hadn’t been defeated in decades—and won. Though the win was fairly short-lived, it nonetheless gave Mexico’s army and people a much-needed sense of national pride that is still remembered today. Since the first local Cinco de Mayo parties hosted by Mexicans mining in California, the holiday has expanded internationally. In the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, England and France, Cinco de Mayo is an occasion to revel in Mexican food, culture, dance and music.


Decades before the Battle of Puebla, Mexico was at a tumultuous time in its history. After gaining independence from Spain in 1821, internal political takeovers ravaged the nation. The Mexican-American War took place from 1846-1848, and one decade later, the Mexican Civil War left the country in financial ruins. (Learn more from Deeply indebted to several countries, Mexico was left with no means for immediate repayment—and, as a result, France’s desire for expansion was fueled.

When Mexico stopped paying on its loans to France, the French installed Archduke Maximilian of Austria, a relative of Napoleon III, as ruler of Mexico. (Wikipedia has details.) French forces invaded Mexico and began marching toward Mexico City, until Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin and his small militia stopped and defeated the famed French army at Puebla. Though victory was short-lived, and Napoleon soon sent additional military forces to Mexico, the Battle of Puebla had boosted the national spirit.


While Cinco de Mayo is not marked with vigor throughout all of Mexico, the holiday is prominent in the state of Puebla. In the United States, Mexican miners living in California fired shots and fireworks upon hearing news of the Battle of Puebla in 1862, and the holiday has been celebrated in California ever since. When the Chicano movement crossed America, Cinco de Mayo awareness grew. By the 1980s, marketers began capitalizing on the holiday and Cinco de Mayo gained national popularity. Today, many countries of the world celebrate Mexican culture on the 5th of May.


Hints of lime, fresh salsa and warm tortillas bring the tastebuds to Mexico like little else, so this Cinco de Mayo, cook up some south-of-the-border cuisine!

Find an array of delicious recipes from Food Network and Taste of Home.

Those hosting a party can find decoration ideas, food suggestions and more from Martha Stewart and HGTV.

Vegetarian? Try this compilation of recipes.

Before those Cinco de Mayo parties get underway, Taco Bell is offering free biscuit tacos to all patrons between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. on May 5. (Read more here.) The biscuit tacos, part of Taco Bell’s new breakfast menu, are biscuits molded into taco shapes and filled with eggs, cheese and bacon or sausage.