Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for the "5th of May") is celebrated throughout Mexico and the US in honor of Mexican heritage and pride, but really commemorates the freedom and democracy won by Puebla during the American civil war in the unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Cinco de Mayo has its roots in the French occupation of Mexico, which took place in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, the Mexican Civil War of 1858. A celebration of culture and heritage, the festivities include parades, mariachi performances, street festivals and of course the traditional margarita.

Photo Credit: Gail Williams

Celebrations in Mexico

With a swelling of pride and achievement, Mexico celebrates with more historical traditions including military parades, recreations of the Battle of Puebla and other reenactments. For many Mexicans, however, May 5 is a day like any other: It is not a federal holiday, so offices, banks and stores remain open.

Photo Credit: Rena Dehler

Celebrations in the United States

The US celebrates Cinco de Mayo more as a festival than a historical event. Particularly in Mexican-American neighborhoods, friends and families gather together to enjoy traditional Mexican cuisine and good tequilas and margaritas. And don't forget the chips and salsa- the spicier the better.

Traditional Mexican cuisine- Corn chips with salsa & queso, tacos, chili, fajitas, mojitos, Margaritas, Daiquiris, cerveza, Mexican wines, Tia Maria, and, of course, lots of tequila.