People in the United States celebrate their country’s Independence Day on the 4th of July. Many people believe Cinco de Mayo (“5th of May” in Spanish) is a celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day.

But they’re wrong! Mexico’s Independence Day is actually September 16.

So what is Cinco de Mayo? Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that recognizes the victory of the Mexican army over the French army on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla. Led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín, the poorly equipped Mexican army made a stand against French forces near the forts of Loreto and Guadalupe.

The Mexican victory provided encouragement to the Mexican army and became a source of pride for the Mexican people. Despite being outnumbered by the French, who had about 8,000 men to the Mexicans’ 4,000, the Mexican army destroyed a French army that was considered the best in the world at the time and had not been defeated in nearly 50 years.

Although the victory was short-lived — the French would capture Mexico City and take over the country within a year — it represented a moral victory for the Mexican government. It came to symbolize unity and pride in the unexpected victory of a clear underdog.

Today, Cinco de Mayo is not that important in Mexico and mainly celebrated only in the state of Puebla. In Mexico, the Independence Day celebrations of September 16 represent that nation’s most important national holiday.

In the United States, though, Cinco de Mayo has become a significant annual celebration of Mexican culture and heritage. In areas of the country with large Mexican-American populations, such as Portland, Denver and Chicago, large festivals are held. People of all backgrounds celebrate the holiday with parades, parties and traditional Mexican music, dancing and foods.

Researchers estimate that more than 150 locations in the United States have official Cinco de Mayo celebrations each year. Cinco de Mayo banners and traditional Mexican symbols, such as the Virgin of Guadalupe, are prominently displayed during events.

If you get the chance to check out a Cinco de Mayo celebration, be sure to try out some traditional Mexican foods. Also keep an eye out for Mexican dancers and mariachi bands!


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    • They sure do make the celebration more festive, don’t they, Abby/M.C? Thanks so much for being an AWESOME Wonder Friend and always posting GREAT comments! :-)

  1. What type of dresses are used i was wondering the name. is there a certain dance they do to celebrate.

    wonderopolis rocks!

    • Those are GREAT questions, Erica/M.C! We’re not sure what the “official” name of the dresses are, but they are often called “twirling” dresses, and are usually brightly colored and beautifully embroidered. It would be fun to twirl around in one of those dresses, don’t you think?

      Oh, and we think YOU rock, too! :-)

    • Wow, toys104! That sounds like a warm and sunny trip! Thanks for sharing your comment with everyone today! :-)

    • That’s OK, Deborah! The GOOD news is that all the Wonders of the Day are always here to look back on and explore whenever you feel like WONDERing! Thanks SO MUCH for stopping by and commenting today! :-)

    • Hi, laprettychuka12! We learned a lot from this Wonder…we’re glad you did, too! It was really interesting to learn the difference in celebration dates between Mexico’s Independence Day (September 16th) and the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Army at the Battle of Puebla (May 5th). Thanks so much for commenting today! :-)

  2. I Really Like The Part Where Everyone Falls Off The Mechanical Bull. I Have Ridden One Just Probably Not Even Half The Speed Of That One…


    • That sounds like WONDERful fun, Lexi! Thanks for visiting this Wonder of the Day® and for sharing that you have ridden a mechanical bull. We think you are SUPER brave! :-)

    • Hello, “We!” Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis today and WONDERing about Cinco de Mayo with us! We encourage you to re-explore this Wonder to learn all about this festive holiday! :-)

  3. Thank you very much for clearing up the meaning of each date. I have been trying to tell people I know here and to no avail, they wouldn’t believe me!

    • Phew, that’s SUPER news, Dorothy! We are glad that you and your friends have been WONDERing about Cinco De Mayo on your own, too! We are glad we could help– thanks for sharing your comment! :)

    • That’s awesome, Wonder Friend Brooklyn! We’re thrilled to hear that you learned something new with us today! Have a terrific Tuesday! :)

    • Hey there, Caira, we are so glad you are WONDERing with us today! Thanks for sharing your super kind comment, too! Have a great day! :)

    • Thanks for sharing your comment, Lucas! We are glad you learned all about the Cinco De Mayo celebration of Mexican independence! We look forward to WONDERing with you again soon! :)

  4. We are celebrating cinco de mayo in our class room. We are going to eat tacos and chips with salsa. I love hot food!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    This is chase from all of the other ones that say Chase and Bentley. CHASE OUT!!!!!!!!!!

    • WOW, that sure sounds like an awesome way to celebrate Cinco De Mayo, Chase and Bentley! We have such a SUPER time WONDERing with you both, thanks for sharing your comment! We hope you save some salsa for us! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Do people in Mexico celebrate Cinco de Mayo?
  • What was important about the Battle of Puebla?
  • How do Mexican-Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

Ready to throw a Cinco de Mayo party? Here are a few easy craft ideas you can use to make some fun and festive decorations for your celebration:

Of course, no party would be complete without food. Try some of these recipes to spice up your party:


Still Wondering

Explore EDSITEment’s Mexican Culture and History Through Its National Holidays lesson to learn more about the holidays that commemorate Mexico’s religious traditions, culture and politics.


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