Cinco de Mayo Celebrates Mexican Heritage

May 3, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015
President Obama hosts a Cinco de Mayo reception at the White House - DC
Dancers of the Ballet Folklorico Mexicano wait to perform during a Cinco de Mayo reception in the Rose Garden at the White House, May 3. Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Battle of Puebla between Mexico and France in 1862. (Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

This year’s May 5 celebration—Cinco de Mayo—marks the 150th anniversary of Mexico’s Battle of Puebla, as is a major holiday for Mexicans in the United States.

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is mainly celebrated in the Puebla region, but much like St. Patrick’s Day for the Irish, it is an ethnic-heritage partying celebration outside of its native country.

Drinking certainly plays a role in the festivities. Wine company Constellation Brands, and U.S. distributor Crown Imports, are set to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday, May 4, to kick off the weekend. “Cinco de Mayo kicks off the key summer selling season for Crown, and we are very excited to start the party by ringing the closing bell at the NYSE,” said Constellation’s CFO Bob Ryder, in a press release.

Cinco De Mayo Celebrated In Los Angeles
Aracely Saucillo (L) and Marylin Castillo perform with Mexica Ballet Folclorico during Cinco De Mayo festivities on May 5, 2011 at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Site on Olvera Street in Los Angeles. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
New York will certainly have a festival atmosphere this weekend. The producers of the World’s Largest Pub Crawls are planning a giant Cinco de Mayo crawl in New York on Saturday. New York’s Spanish Harlem, or “El Barrio,” will host the Cinco de Mayo Mexican Parade on Sunday, May 6 from 110th to 97th streets, Central Park West.

According to the organizers, the invitation to celebrate is open to all. “This parade is not exclusively for Mexicans. Although it is crucial for them, every single person is welcome,” said a statement on the Asociación Tepeyac de New York website.

The annual Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Cinco de Mayo festival will be held a week later on May 13, joined to Mother’s Day.

On May 5, 1862, Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin led his mostly ill-equipped Mexican Army of 4,500 to victory over a superior army of 6,000 seasoned French soldiers. The defeat stemmed the advance and forced the French to withdraw from the area. The victory was short-lived, as France eventually sent more troops and occupied the country.

Emperor Napoleon of France installed his relative Archduke Maximilian of Austria as emperor of Mexico only a year after the battle, but his rule did not last long. After the Civil War, the United States provided assistance to Mexico, which expelled the French and overthrew Maximilian in 1867, according to the Legacies Project of the New York State Archives.

Its evolution into a celebration of Hispanic heritage came later.