9 ways Cinco de Mayo is celebrated differently in the US and Mexico

cinco de mayo
Cinco De Mayo is much bigger in the US than it is in Mexico.Don Ryan/AP
  • Cinco de Mayo has roots in Mexico, but it's become more widely celebrated in the US.

  • In Mexico, celebrations are smaller, and the day typically focuses on a military win.

  • But in the US, the day's festivities have become commercialized and focus on drinking and eating.

Cinco de Mayo doesn't celebrate Mexican Independence Day as many in the US believe.

cinco de mayo celebration mexico
It's not the equivalent of the Fourth of July.Anthony Vazquez/AP Photo

Though many Americans assume Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day, that's not true. But it does have a military history.

On May 5, 1862, French troops — about 6,000 in number — led by General Charles de Lorencez attacked a small town in east-central Mexico called Puebla de los Ángeles. In response, Mexican President Benito Juárez sent around 2,000 of his men to fight.

In the short battle, the French were losing far more soldiers than the Mexican army, and they withdrew. The win didn't end Mexico's war with France, but the victory did become a symbol of resistance against French imperialism.

The actual Mexican Independence Day is September 16.

In the US, Mexican-Americans started observing Cinco de Mayo during the Civil War as a way to celebrate their heritage.

Cinco de Mayo Los Angeles Celebration
US celebrations started in Southern California.Getty Images / Kevork Djansezian

Although many use Cinco de Mayo as another day to party today, the holiday is an opportunity to celebrate Mexican identity, promote ethnic consciousness, and build community solidarity.

In the 1860s, some Americans of Mexican heritage in Southern California took inspiration from the victorious battle to fuel the Union's efforts in the American Civil War.

The fifth of May was originally celebrated with festivities like parades, dances, banquets, and bullfighting by those Californians.

Today, some of the largest festivals take place in Chicago, Denver, Portland, and St. Paul.

In Mexico, the holiday is pretty much only celebrated regionally.

Battle of Puebla
The holiday honors the Battle of Puebla.Eduardo Verdugo/AP Photo

Today, Cinco de Mayo isn't observed throughout all of Mexico. It's primarily celebrated in Puebla, where the battle the holiday celebrates took place.

In America, it's become a pretty commercialized affair.

Josh Duhamel Cinco De Mayo
The holiday is an excuse for many to eat and drink.Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Throughout the early- and mid-1900s in the US, the holiday was largely community-based and centered on celebrating Mexican heritage. But by the 1980s, the day of festivities started to become commercialized.

Several alcohol companies also started taking advantage of the opportunity to capitalize on the holiday, expediting this shift.

Some children get off school for the holiday in Mexico.

cinco de mayo
But it isn't a federal holiday in the country.Shutterstock

It's not a federal holiday in Mexico, so banks and other establishments aren't closed. But students in Puebla get the day off from school.

The day also isn't a federal holiday in the US, and schools don't close.

In America, many have started celebrating it as a drinking holiday.

cinco de mayo
The day has been co-opted by Americans.Bryan Steffy/Getty Images

Cinco de Mayo is reportedly one of the top five drinking holidays in America, with many celebrations including tequila, beer, and margaritas.

Parties might include Mariachi bands and even traditional Mexican dancing. But just like other holidays in the US, it's led to a lot of cultural appropriation, like wearing ponchos and sombreros to take tequila shots while totally ignoring their important role in Mexican culture.

In some parts of Mexico, it's seen more as a holiday around the military.

Mariachi band
It's seen as an observance of the Battle of Puebla.Shutterstock

Military parades, recreations of the Battle of Puebla, and other festivities take place in the Mexican city.

The Cinco de Mayo Parade is one of the main events for that day in Puebla and usually boasts over 20,000 participants, featuring Mariachi bands, colorful costumes, dancing, and fireworks.

In America, it's often celebrated with Mexican-inspired food.

tacos
Food has also played into the commercialization of the holiday.Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

People in the US have also used the holiday as an excuse to eat Mexican-inspired food like tacos, enchiladas, and chile rellenos — though how authentic the food people celebrate with is certainly up for debate.

In Mexico, festivities sometimes intersect with the Mole Festival.

Mole Poblano
Mole is a sauce that's popular in some Mexican cuisine.Shutterstock / JuanSalvador

Alongside Cinco de Mayo celebrations, the city of Puebla has also held the International Mole Festival in late April and early May for several years.

The festival celebrates mole poblano — a dark, red-brown sauce typical in some Mexican cuisine — with culinary discussions; exhibitions; and tastings from international, national, and regional chefs.

Read the original article on Insider