Humanities › History & Culture Cinco de Mayo for Kids Share Flipboard Email Print Robert Landau/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images History & Culture Latin American History Mexican History History Before Columbus Colonialism and Imperialism Caribbean History Central American History South American History American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Christopher Minster Professor of History and Literature Ph.D., Spanish, Ohio State University M.A., Spanish, University of Montana B.A., Spanish, Penn State University Christopher Minster, Ph.D., is a professor at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador. He is a former head writer at VIVA Travel Guides. our editorial process Christopher Minster Updated February 12, 2019 Cinco de Mayo! It's everyone's favorite Mexican holiday, a chance to listen to cool music, grab some chips and salsa and maybe even speak some Spanish with friends. But what's it all about? Most folks know enough Spanish to understand that "Cinco de Mayo" is May fifth, so it must be a special date in history, but why do Mexicans celebrate that particular day? What is Cinco de Mayo? On Cinco de Mayo, Mexicans remember the Battle of Puebla, fought on May 5, 1862. On that day, Mexicans won an important battle against the French army, which was invading Mexico. Why Was France Invading Mexico? France had a long history of interfering in Mexico's business, dating back to the famous Pastry War of 1838. In 1862, Mexico was having big problems and owed money to other countries, mainly France. France invaded Mexico to try and get their money. Why is the Battle of Puebla So Famous? Basically, the battle is famous because the Mexicans weren't supposed to win. The French army had about 6,000 soldiers and the Mexicans had only about 4,500. The French had better guns and were better trained. The French had already beaten the Mexicans a few times as they made their way to the city of Puebla, from which they planned to go to Mexico City. No one thought the Mexicans were going to win the battle…except maybe the Mexicans! What Happened at the Battle of Puebla? The Mexicans had made defenses around the city of Puebla. The French attacked three times, and each time they had to retreat. When the French cannons ran out of ammunition, the Mexican commander, Ignacio Zaragoza, ordered an attack. The Mexican attack forced the French to run away! The Mexicans cheered and President Benito Juarez said that May fifth would forever be a national holiday. Was That the End of the War? Unfortunately, no. The French army was driven off but not beaten. France sent a huge army of 27,000 soldiers to Mexico and this time they captured Mexico City. They put Maximilian of Austria in charge of Mexico and it was a few years before the Mexicans could kick the French out. So Cinco de Mayo isn't Mexico's Independence Day? Lots of people think so, but no. Mexico celebrates its Independence Day on September 16. That's the day when in 1810 Father Miguel Hidalgo stood up in his church and said that the time had come for Mexico to be free from Spain. That's how Mexico's battle for independence began. How Do Mexicans Celebrate Cinco de Mayo? Mexicans love Cinco de Mayo! It's a day that makes them feel very proud. There are parties, parades and lots of food. There are festivals with concerts and dancing. Mariachi bands are everywhere. Where Are the Best Places to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo? Of all the places in the world, the city of Puebla in Mexico is probably the best. After all, that's where the big battle was! There's a huge parade and a re-enactment of the battle. There is also a mole festival. Mole, pronounced mo-lay, is a special food in Mexico. After Puebla, the best place to go for Cinco de Mayo is Los Angeles, California, where they have a big party every year. Is Cinco de Mayo a Big Deal in Mexico? It is, but September 16, Mexico's Independence Day, is a bigger holiday in most of Mexico than Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo is a bigger deal in other countries like the USA. That's because Mexicans who live in other countries like to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and because most foreigners think it's the most important Mexican holiday. Cinco de Mayo is surprisingly NOT a national holiday in Mexico, although it's a local holiday in Puebla. How Can I Celebrate Cinco de Mayo? That's easy! If you live in a city where there are a lot of Mexicans, there will be parties and festivals. If you don't, your local Mexican restaurant will probably have special food, decorations and maybe even a mariachi band! You can host a Cinco de Mayo party by getting some decorations, serving some Mexican food like chips, salsa and guacamole and playing Mexican music.