Cinco de Mayo is 155 Years Old

Do you celebrate Cinco de Mayo? Do you know what it represents? Are you already IN Mexico (I’m jealous if you are!) If you plan to celebrate this year, I have outlined a few ideas for you to consider for this Friday. I know it’s not in the style of my usual posts, since its not a National Drink Day but May 5th is a National Drinking Day celebrated by many, mostly Americans.

It’s NOT Mexico’s Independence Day. That is in September. Nor is it Day of the Dead.

On May 5, 1862, the Mexican army, outnumbered by thousands, defeated France at the Battle of Puebla under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza.

Money: The Root Of All Evil

Just coming out of 2 consecutive wars, the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 and the Reform War (1858-61), Mexican President Benito Juarez found his country in deep debt. On July 17, 1861, he suspended all foreign debt payments for two years.

France, Britain, and Spain, outraged, since Mexico owed them all money, sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew, but France, ruled by Napoleon III, used the opportunity to establish a Latin empire in Mexico.

Later that year, a well-armed French military stormed VeracruzJuarez and his government were forced to retreat. The French army, considered #1 in the world, swept into Mexico City. They met with heavy resistance from the Mexican army, near Puebla, at the forts of Guadelupe and LoretoMexico was outnumbered by four thousand men yet somehow managed to defeat the French army on May 5, 1862.

However, a year later, the French tried again and won. They captured Mexico City and installed French President, Maximillian, which lasted 3 years.

In the 1860’s in California, where Colombia State Park now sits, Mexican miner workers eventually got word, on May 27 via stagecoach delivery of a San Francisco newspaper, of the incredible victory and fired off their rifles, lit fireworks, sang patriotic songs and, of course, drank.”

Californians have been celebrating Cinco de Mayo continuously since 1863.

In the US, the celebrations have become geared towards American-Mexican traditions. It gradually spread from California to the rest of the States in the 50’s and 60’s.

“The Journal of American Culture states that there are at least 150 official Cinco de Mayo celebrations that take place every year.”

– José Alamillo, Professor, Washington State University

However, in Mexico, the celebration is mostly ceremonial with military parades to honour the fallen heroes and soldiers, and re-enactments of the Battle of Puebla.

Mariachi Band 1976 Mexico

The largest celebration is held at Fiesta Broadway in Los Angeles. At its peak, in the 1990’s, 500,000 people attended but numbers have recently been decreasing.

In 2005, a proclamation was issued by United Congress to the people of the United States to recognize Cinco de Mayo with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

At the Plaza del Pueblo de Los Ángeles, festivities include mariachi band demonstrations and Baile Folklórico, traditional Mexican folk dances. With the many styles of dance in Mexico, to determine if it is folklorico, watch the arms and legs. If the dancer raises her hands above her head, exposing her legs, it is folklorico.

These dances are the ones I love. As a child, I wanted to be a dancer with the brightly colored costume, the extravagantly swooping dress. That part of me still wants to become a Spanish dancer when she finally grows up.

Aside from the bigger Cinco de Mayo festivities in the western part of the United States, I have put together a list of humbler festivities, by city, in Canada and the US for you to consider.


Ottawa – With May 5th on a Friday this year, most establishments will see an increase in patrons. and you’re sure to have a good time. For some real Mexican music, a margarita or two and delicious food, celebrate at Feleena’s at 742 Bank St., or Ahora on Dalhousie. Any of them will be glad to have you.

Or, in Westboro, enjoy some great eating at The Piggy Market at 400 Winston Ave. You never know what party could ignite!

To become more involved in the Spanish community in general, visit Ottawa Hispanic Business Centre. Here, you can learn and practice the Spanish language, Spanish guitar and even the salsa. If you don’t live in Ottawa and would like to participate, google will lead you to the Hispanic Community in your city.

More Ottawa festivities this weekend:

Latin American Film Festival at Carleton U.

Giant Zumba Party

Ola Cocina – 1079 Wellington St – help build the giant pinata!

Happy Goat Coffee at 35 Laurel St for more festivities. It won’t be mariachi music but it will be live!

Learn Latin Dance at La Discoteka – 349 Dalhousie St., Ottawa

Vancouver, BC and a few extra options in BC


Calgary, AB

Toronto, ON – Early Mercy at 540 King St. West will have a mariachi band, dj and sombreros for everyone!

Montreal, Quebec

Cornwall, ON

United States

Phoenix, Arizona

San Diego, CA

Festivals in San Francisco, CA  and live music at an Alley Party.

Chicago, IL

This gives you a few days advance notice to plan where you would like to be this Friday, May 5, 2017. Some festivities run for the whole weekend!

If you discover a festival or celebration in your town or city that is not included here, feel free to leave a link in the comments section and I will add your link to my post.


Posted May 2, 2017 by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe