Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for “fifth of May”) is an annual celebration held on May 5. Contrary to widespread popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexico’s Independence Day, which is the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico. That holiday is celebrated on September 16. Cinco de Mayo is a regional holiday limited primarily to the state of Puebla, Mexico, where it is called “El Dia de la Batalla de Puebla” (The Day of the Battle of Puebla). The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has taken on a significance beyond that in its home country. Mexicans living in California during the American Civil War are credited with being the first to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the United States. TIME magazine reports that “Cinco de Mayo started to come into vogue in 1940s America during the rise of the Chicano movement.” United Press International reports that “The holiday crossed over into the United States in the 1950s and 1960s but didn’t gain popularity until the 1980s when marketers… capitalized on the celebratory nature of the day and began to promote it.”

As a result, Cinco de Mayo is more popular today in the United States than it is in Mexico! The holiday is observed by many Americans regardless of ethnic origin as a date to celebrate Mexican heritage, culture, and prominent figures of Mexican descent – much as St. Patrick’s Day, Oktoberfest, and the Chinese New Year are used to celebrate those of Irish, German, and Chinese ancestry respectively. Cinco de Mayo celebrations typically include traditional Mexican symbols, foods and music.

Here are a couple of worksheets, courtesy of, to use with your Cinco de Mayo celebrations:

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