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The History Behind Puebla, Mexico’s Beloved Cinco de Mayo Tradition

Date: May 05, 2021

The History Behind Puebla, Mexico’s Beloved Cinco de Mayo Tradition

By Joanne Villavieja, Ethnic Technologies

According to this study by YouGov, about 41% of the adults in the US believe that Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for “May 5th”) is the holiday for Mexico’s Independence Day. Well, the date for Mexico’s “Día de la Independencia” is actually September 16th, so what is Cinco de Mayo really celebrating, and who celebrates it?

Cinco de Mayo is the holiday for commemorating Mexico’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862. While it’s marked in all of our calendars, most Americans don’t know that Mexico’s fight against the French affected our nation’s history during one of its most critical events, the Civil War. Historians believe that Napoleon III, leader of the French forces, attempted to turn Puebla into a base in Mexico to aid the Confederate Army during the war.

Shortly after the victory in 1862, May 5th was declared a national Mexican holiday. It later on became observed in the United States as part of President Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy” in 1933 to improve Latin American relations. In 2005 President Bush declared it as an official national holiday. However, Mexicans living in the US had been celebrating their homeland’s fight long before this official recognition. Even today, areas of California like Columbia and Los Angeles are home to some of the biggest celebrations like Fiesta Broadway and Cinco de Mayo at Olvera Street.

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is traditionally celebrated in the actual city of Puebla, where people dress up in colorful outfits as soldiers and participate in parades reenacting the battle where Mexico’s army defeated the French despite being outnumbered. In the US, people celebrate the holiday with the displays of the Mexican flag or its colors, playing traditional Mariachi music, wearing colorful Puebla dresses, and of course eating and drinking traditional Mexican cuisine and beverages. Here are some facts to think about while you’re out enjoying your tacos and margaritas this upcoming Cinco de Mayo:

  • Mole Poblano is the official dish of Cinco de Mayo and originates from the regions of Puebla and Oaxaca, the word “mole” comes from the Nahuatl world “molli”, which means “sauce” or “concoction.”
  • Mariachi music originated in Jalisco, Mexico in the 19th century, and was used by musicians to spread the history of revolutionary war heroes and national news.
  • Cinco de Mayo is a holiday well known to be celebrated with drinking in the US, and up to $600 million worth of beer can be sold on this day, which is more than the Superbowl or St. Patrick’s Day. Tequila also reaches peak sales with over 127 million liters of tequila and mezcal being sold on May 5.
  • Some examples of popular names through the Mexican regions include the last name Teahulos that is used by ethnic Zapotec individuals from the Oaxaca region, or Tepetl that is used by the Nahua peoples of the Puebla region.

E-Tech’s multicultural-driven software helps you connect to your Hispanic audience by predicting demographics such as Ethnicity, Language Preference and Hispanic Country of Origin, like Mexico. E-Tech’s one-of-a-kind name-based system is precise enough to identify uniquely Mexican surnames, such as Teahulos, a Zapotec name from the Oaxaca region, or Tepetl, a Nahua name from Puebla, home of the battle of Cinco de Mayo.

Karen Sinisi
Director of Sales and Marketing