Cinco De Mayo! The U.S. Holiday that isn’t.

Cinco de Mayo – a day here in the United States that we tip the margarita glass to our south of the border neighbor, Mexico.  However, did you know that this holiday isn’t universally celebrated in Mexico?  It is regionally celebrated in the state of Puebla, as El Dia de la Batalla de Puebla (The day of the Battle of Puebla).  It commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over French forces on May 5, 1862.  It’s NOT (as some Americans believe) the celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day.  That day is actually September 16.

However, Cinco de Mayo in the United States has evolved into a celebration of Mexican heritage and culture with many parades, mariachi music, Mexican folk dancing and delicious food.  The observations in the United States began primarily by the Mexicans and Latinos living in California during the Civil War.  Upon hearing of the victory in Puebla, the Mexican miners in the gold country of California were so happy that they fired off rifle shots, fireworks, sang patriotic songs, etc.  Since then, Cinco de Mayo was celebrated continually in the United States, specifically California, and not as much in Mexico.

The holiday didn’t gain much popularity outside of California until the 1940s when the Chicano movement started to rise.  It continued to gain popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, but really gained acceptance in the 1980s when beer marketers began to promote Cinco de Mayo as a holiday.

Now, there are hundreds of celebrations ranging from huge music festivals to smaller observations.  Some of the best, and most authentic Cinco de Mayo celebrations are where the highest concentration of Mexican people live.  One of the very best is located in Denver, Colorado.  The festival, which lasts for two days attracts over 400,000 people and is full of Mexican music with regional, salsa, Christian, Tex-Mex, and ranchero.

Chicago, Illinois puts on a great celebration.  The festival includes a 5 mile race, the Cinco de Miler, music, food booths, cultural information, and a recently added “Cinco de Snoots” where pets and their owners can both partake the festivities.  There’s a huge listing for all the events for Chicago’s celebration here.

In San Francisco, CA, the Mission district goes all in for its celebration.  Cultural activities, Lucha Libre wrestlers, and a Mission Dolores tour top the list of things to do.

But, where better to celebrate Cinco de Mayo but in  Texas? Along the infamous San Antonio Riverwalk, Luminaria 2012 has been added which honors San Antonio’s artist communities. Be prepared for Mariachis, Tejano and Conjunto music plus cultural dances and food at the historic Market Square.  In San Marcos, TX, located in the Hill Country,  hosts the 38th annual festival known for its parade, Little Miss and Miss Cinco de Mayo pageants, music, and Folklorico dancers. There is also the state-wide Menudo Cook-Off which features a soup of tripe, hominy and chili which is cooked for hours and thought by many to be the elusive hangover cure!

Whether you are traveling to Cinco De Mayo festivities, or celebrating closer to home, choose for the start of your next adventure.  You can opt to stay the night before (or after) your flight.  You’ll receive airport parking for the duration of your trip, transportation to and from the airport terminal, as well as a night’s stay at an airport hotel.  You’ll arrive relaxed, refreshed and ready for the fiesta. After all, haven’t you always wanted to play the castanets in a Mariachi band?


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