How Cinco de Mayo Works

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo
A pinata.
A pinata.

While Cinco de Mayo is celebrated all over Mexico, it is most intensely observed in Puebla, where the actual battle took place.

In towns throughout the country, the fiesta includes Mexican food, such as Mole Poblano, Mexican music, including mariachi bands, parades, piñatas for the kids and fireworks at the end of the day. In places like Puebla and Mexico City, there is a reenactment of the battle. Men dress as French and Mexican soldiers and generals, and women wear the clothing of the soldaderos, the women who cooked for and looked after the soldiers in wartime. In some representations, the Mexican soldiers carry machetes and old gun-powder rifles, and the French soldiers carry bags with wine bottles sticking out. It is said that in some of these staged battles, there are actual casualties (Inside Mexico). In other reenactments, fruit is used as ammunition, so the worst injury possible is an apple to the head.

The Mexican president gives a speech in Mexico City that is televised nationwide, and the day's reveling ends with shouts of "¡Viva Mexico!"

Similar celebrations take place in many major U.S. cities, including San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, St. Paul, Chicago and Los Angeles. Cinco de Mayo is actually celebrated more widely and on a grander scale in the United States than it is in Mexico, possibly due to effective marketing techniques.

Carnivals, street fairs and multi-day festivals are held all over the United States during the first week in May. In Los Angeles, Cinco de Mayo festivities attract hundreds of thousands of people. Red, white and green -- the colors of the Mexican flag -- are the dominant tones on the blocks around City Hall, and a portrait of General Zaragoza adorns the stage where the mayor of Los Angeles delivers a speech in Spanish. In St. Paul, Minnesota, the festivities include a "Lowrider Hydraulic Showdown"; in Austin, Texas, there is a jalapeño-eating contest; and in San Marcos, Texas, the winner of the Miss Cinco de Mayo pageant receives a $1,000 scholarship.

Last editorial update on May 3, 2018 11:49:13 am.

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