Most people in the United States see Cinco de Mayo as a day to have fun and drink margaritas, but there’s much more significance to the day than people realize. The real history dates back to the 19th century and was a time full of difficulties that impacted the Latinos that lived in what is now the Southwest.

In the early 1860s, Mexico owed France an immense amount of money, which lead Napoleon III to send troops and, “not only overtake Mexico City, but also to help form a Confederate-friendly country that would neighbor the South.” The troops sent by Napoleon did not make it, however, and the smaller and less-prepared Mexican army held them off in a town called Puebla. The battle, which was later named the Battle of Puebla, took place on May 5th, 1862, and went down in history as an impressive battle that was won by the Mexican troops.

While this battle was not a very large strategic win in the overall battle against the French, the win held significance in the Mexican government and ended up cementing the resistance in Mexico. According to, “In 1867—thanks in part to military support and political pressure from the United States, which was finally in a position to aid its besieged neighbor after the end of the Civil War—France finally withdrew.”

Many parts of Mexico take part in Cinco de Mayo celebrations, but the state of Puebla is the main spot where the holiday is observed. There are many traditions that take place, including military parades, recreations of the Battle of Puebla, and many other festive events that are connected to the important day.

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is a day to celebrate the Mexican heritage, especially in places that have a large Mexican-American population. Many Chicano activists raised awareness of the holiday in the 1960s because they identified with the victory of the indigenous Mexicans over the Europeans. Popular celebrations may include parties, parades, traditional Mexican folk dancing and food, and mariachi music. You can find the biggest celebrations in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston.

For an authentic Cinco de Mayo celebration, stop by Chapala Authentic Mexican Restaurant and Grill. Try our wide variety of Mexican cuisine and celebrate the holiday the right way. Visit our website to browse our entire food and drink menu.