EVENTS & HOLIDAYS

It’s Cinco de Mayo time, and festivities are planned across the US. But in Mexico, not so much

May 4, 2024, 11:07 AM

DENVER, CO - MAY 04:  Children participate in a Cinco de Mayo parade celebrating Mexican culture on...

DENVER, CO - MAY 04: Children participate in a Cinco de Mayo parade celebrating Mexican culture on May 4, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. Hundreds of thousands of people were expected to attend the two day event, billed as the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the United States. Cinco de Mayo observes the victory of the Mexican army over French forces on May 5, 1862 in the town of Puebla, Mexico. The festival celebrates Mexican culture and is one of the most popular annual Latino events in the United States. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(AP) — The United States is gearing up for Cinco de Mayo. Music, all-day happy hours and deals on tacos are planned at venues across the country on Sunday — May 5 — in a celebration with widely misunderstood origins that is barely recognized south of the border.

In the U.S., the date is largely seen as a celebration of Mexican American culture stretching back to the 1800s in California. Typical festivities include parades, street food, block parties, mariachi competitions and baile folklórico, or folkloric dance, with whirling dancers wearing shiny ribbons with braids and bright, ruffled dresses.

For Americans with or without Mexican ancestry, the day has become an excuse to toss back tequila shots with salt and lime, and gorge on tortilla chips smothered with melted orange cheddar that’s unfamiliar to most people in Mexico.

The focus on drinking and eating has brought some criticism of the holiday, especially as beer manufacturers and other marketers have capitalized on its festive nature and some revelers embrace offensive stereotypes, such as fake, droopy mustaches and gigantic straw sombreros.

WHAT IT IS

Cinco de Mayo marks the anniversary of the 1862 victory by Mexican troops over invading French forces at the Battle of Puebla. The triumph over the better equipped and more numerous French troops was an enormous emotional boost for the Mexican soldiers led by Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza.

Historical reenactments and parades are held annually in the central Mexico city of Puebla to commemorate the inspirational victory, with participants dressed in historical French and Mexican army uniforms.

WHAT IT ISN’T

Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day, Mexico’s most important holiday.

Mexicans celebrate their country’s independence from Spain on the anniversary of the call to arms against the European country issued Sept. 16, 1810, by the Rev. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a priest in Dolores, Mexico.

Mexico’s president reenacts el Grito de Independencia, or the Cry of Independence, most years on Sept. 15 at about 11 p.m. from the balcony of the country’s National Palace, ringing the bell Hidalgo rang.

The commemoration typically ends with three cries of “¡Viva México!” above a colorful swirl of tens of thousands of people crowded into the Zócalo, or main plaza, in central Mexico City.

THIS YEAR’S CELEBRATIONS

May 5 this year falls on a Sunday, an ideal day for many people to relax and enjoy the day. There are celebrations planned across the country, especially in places with large Mexican American populations.

Among the festivities In California, San Jose will host a parade and festival featuring live music, dancers and lowrider cars, while in San Francisco there will be a festival at District Six.

An outdoor market in El Paso, Texas, will feature a car show, vendors and live music from Krystall Poppin, Ka$h Go Crazy and 2 Sexy Ashley.

In New Orleans, there will be celebrations on Saturday and Sunday at Fat City Park, with two stages and eight bands, as well as a taco-eating contest.

Across the country, bars and restaurants are promoting their Mexican fare and specials including all-day happy hours. For something different, New York even has a floating Mexican restaurant on a yacht that cruises the Hudson River.

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It’s Cinco de Mayo time, and festivities are planned across the US. But in Mexico, not so much