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8 Myths about Cinco de Mayo put to the test

Themladatter/Wikimedia

Cinco de Mayo is a fun and fascinating holiday. Much like Christmas or Easter, the commercialization of this celebration in modern times is far removed from it’s origin. Over the years, certain myths around Cinco de Mayo have accumulated (maybe due to mass amounts of margaritas at low prices.) Today, it’s often known as “Cinco de Drinko” or referred to as “Mexican St. Patrick’s Day.” In truth, Cinco de Mayo is way more than any of those nicknames. The holiday has a rich history worth taking the time to better understand and dispel myths such as that it’s cool to wear a sombrero only on Cinco de Mayo. 

So to start you on your journey of myth-busting, here are 7 myths about Cinco de Mayo put to the test.

1) Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day - FALSE

GritoIxmiquilpan.JPGImage: Themladatter/Wikimedia

Mexican Independence Day is September 16th. Literally months away from Cinco de Mayo. So why is Cinco de Mayo often confused for Mexican Independence Day? And more importantly what exactly should you be celebrating on Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo commemorates El Día de la Batalla de Puebla -- the day when the Mexican army defeated the French from invading their country in 1862. The battle was part of the Franco-Mexican war which was the result of Benito Juárez (President of Mexico at the time who came into presidency amidst a financially ruined nation) declaring Mexico would not be paying their colonially constructed “debt” to European governments. A militia of nearly 6,000 Frenchmen came to demand reimbursement from Mexico. In the city of Puebla, this militia was defeated by only 2,000 members of the Mexican army.

The symbolic meaning of the battle grew in Mexican-American communities throughout the US during the 1960s “Chicano” movement who saw the event as a reflection of the power of indigenous Mexicans.

2) Cinco de Mayo is the biggest holiday in Mexico - FALSE

It’s actually a bigger holiday in the US. Except for regions in the state of Puebla in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is not nearly as largely celebrated as Mexican Independence Day on September 16th.

3) Mexico City has the biggest Cinco de Mayo celebration in Mexico - FALSE

Mexico_City_Zocalo_Cathedral.jpgImage: wikicommons: Jeff Kramer

The city of Puebla, where the battle against the French army took place on May 5th, 1862, holds the largest celebration with parades, dancing and fiestas.

Fun fact: The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Center not because of the battle but because of the stunning and well preserved cathedrals in the city.

4) The largest Cinco de Mayo fiesta is held in Los Angeles - TRUE

You may have guessed this one...it’s true the largest fiesta on Cinco de Mayo is the US is Los Angeles! In a city with more than 48 percent of the population identifying as Hispanic or Latino it’s not too surprising that the city of Angels throws the biggest fiesta on Cinco de Mayo. Besides the largest street fair celebration in the world on Cinco de Mayo, check out other events in Los Angeles for Cinco de Mayo here.

5) Everyone drinks tequila on Cinco de Mayo - FALSE

A photo posted by Sabor a Vida (@saboravida) on

In Puebla, the most popular drink is agua fresca. This refreshing drink has water infused with fruits, seeds, and or flowers. Flavors range from hibiscus to tamarind and lime.

6) Sombreros are appropriate attire - FALSE

If you want to be historically accurate then no -- sombreros were not really a thing during la Batalla de Puebla. They were integrated into Mexican culture in the 15th century and are believed to have originated from Spain. True, they were technically around during the battle against the French  but they were not a key or featured element. Today, the shade providing hats have strayed away from their traditional purpose. Take a hint from this Buzzfeed article on the DOs and DONTs of Cinco de Mayo to avoid cultural appropriation of this holiday.

7) Tacos are the traditional food for Cinco de Mayo - FALSE

México en un plato. 🇲🇽🍴 #ChilesEnNogada #mexicanfood #MEXICO

A photo posted by URIEL SANTANA (@urielsantanafoto) on

Well, maybe tacos are big in the US but if you really want to get into Cinco de Mayo check out some traditional Pueblan foods and recipes like Chalupas and chiles en nogada here.

Puebla is known as the gastronomical capital of Mexico. It’s the birthplace of mole poblano -- the most popular form of mole sauce which requires no less than 30 ingredients including chocolate. So get beyond the tacos and try out some more historically accurate food - your taste buds will thank you.

8) Everyone can enjoy Cinco de Mayo - TRUE

Some (such as college students) have definitely abused the holiday’s core theme -- the appreciation of indigenous Mexicans holding their ground, while outnumbered, against a foreign army.

Margaritas and tacos are a beautiful thing but it’s not the only thing to Cinco de Mayo - the holidy too often known as “Cinco de Drinko.” That said, you should totally have fun and enjoy today. And now that you’ve gotten a glimpse into the deep history behind Cinco de Mayo “may the fourth” be with you as you celebrate this unique holiday with respect for Mexican and Mexican-American heritage and culture.


Happy Cinco de Mayo! Share your thoughts on these myths surrounding Cinco de Mayo and any others you’ve heard.