Cinco de Mayo does not celebrate Mexican independence as many Americans believe. Mexico celebrates their independence on September 16. Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that celebrates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over the French in Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. It is not formally observed in Mexico countrywide. It is a full holiday in the states of Puebla and Veracruz, where parades, battle reenactments, and poblano culture displays are held.
The 5th of May is a popular party holiday in America and other countries. How did it become so popular in the U.S.? It was introduced to encourage pride in Mexican Americans back in the 1800s. Like St. Patrick’s Day, this patriotic holiday has been commercialized into a time to party. A 2018 survey by NationalToday.com showed only 10% of Americans knew the true reason behind the holiday, yet it has turned into a day where people can get cheap margaritas and eat tacos.
If you like to celebrate the day with your family, I suggest you include a little history about the Battle of Puebla in 1862. French forces sent by Napoleon III were on the march to Mexico City and encountered the Mexican Army in Puebla. The small Mexican army in Pueblo defeated the French in a historic battle on May 5th. Ultimately the French did win the war, but the day celebrates the resilience of the Mexican people to resist invaders who are trying to take their land.
In celebration of the Mexican culture, public parades, private parties, mariachi music, and folk dancing are appropriate. It’s also a perfect time to do some fun crafts for decorations and explore authentic Mexican food with your family. Here are a few activities you might like:
1. Mole Poblano
Mole Poblano is a thick, rich red or brown sauce made with chilis, fruit, nuts, seeds and Mexican chocolate. While there are many different types of mole made throughout Mexico, mole poblano hails from Puebla, a region famous for its culinary delights, colonial architecture and Talavera pottery. Mole Poblano may be the most consumed dish in Puebla for Cinco de Mayo. The rich mole sauce is eaten in big celebrations such as holidays, a birthday party, or a very special day. The flavor depends on how much chocolate and how much peppers you add. I suggest you try Mele Martinez’s authentic mole poblano recipe. You can modify it as needed. Her blog is filled with authentic Mexican dishes.
2. Mexican Style Carne Asada
The favorite cut of meat for carne asada is skirt steak. You can substitute any cut of beef that is suitable for grilling. Thin cuts are preferable if you want authentic Mexican flavor. In Mexico, it is rare to be served a cut of beef that is much thicker than about ½″ unless you are at a fancy steakhouse. The marinated and grilled steak can be eaten as steak or sliced for tacos. Serve it with corn or flour tortillas, 2 or 3 grilled spring onions, some smokey grilled tomato salsa, pico de gallo, or salsa verde and half a lime.
3. Popular Mexican Dishes
Homemade Guacamole stands out as one of my favorite Mexican side dishes. There are many avocado trees growing in Florida and in season co-workers bring bags of avocado to share at work. My first year in Florida, I brought some home and friends taught me to make guacamole. Yum!
Mexican Street Corn is another favorite dish. In Mexico ( and around Los Angeles) street vendors sell grilled corn with lots of toppings. Check out my recipe and get your mouth ready for a great taste!
There are several agua fresca’s in Mexico using fruit, water, and sugar. My favorite, Watermelon Agua Fresca, is a refreshing cold drink for a hot day. Another popular drink is Agua de Jamaica or Hibiscus Tea. This is a super refreshing iced tea made from dried hibiscus. You’ll find both recipes here on the blog.
4. Craft: Papel Picado (Mexican Paper Cutting)
This popular Mexican craft, Papel picado, is a traditional Mexican art form used in almost all Mexican celebrations. It is a beautiful decoration that is made in the same way that you would make snowflake cutouts. See Teach Kids Art for all the directions.
5. Easy Paper Bag Piñatas
You can’t celebrate Mexico’s rich heritage without a Piñata. The Spruce Crafts has a great post on How To Make A Pinata From A Paper Bag. This is a popular decoration for all celebrations, and you can easily adapt it according to your supplies.
6. Music and Folk Dance
If a local group is celebrating May 5th with traditional mariachi music and dancing, join in the celebration. For a home party, listen to traditional mariachi music and learn the Mexican Hat Dance. Below is a video shared on YouTube of Mexican Folk Dancers at Epcot:
I hope you enjoy the food and customs of Mexico this May 5th. Happy Cinco de Mayo!
If you liked this post, you might like:
Thanks for the visit. Get exclusive free printables & all the news straight to your mailbox!