The Meaning of Cinco de Mayo: What It Is and How To Use It

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When some Americans think of Cinco de Mayo celebrations, they think of heading to a Mexican restaurant for happy hour deals on margaritas after work. However, this holiday actually has a significant and storied history. 

In this piece, we will go over the history of the Cinco de Mayo holiday and how people celebrate it. Next, read on to learn how you can celebrate this holiday respectfully!

What Does Cinco de Mayo Mean?

According to Reader’s Digest, Cinco de Mayo literally translates to “the fifth of May” or “May fifth.” This Mexican holiday is also known as the Battle of Puebla Day or the Anniversary of the Battle of Puebla. Every year, this holiday is celebrated on May 5th. This special holiday celebrated Mexico’s victory over France during the Franco-Mexican War in Puebla.

Some people may believe that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day, but this is not the case. Mexican Independence Day actually falls on September 16th. This holiday celebrates the deliverance of the speech “Grito de Dolores,” or “Cry of Dolores” that a Roman Catholic priest named Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla gave to encourage Mexico’s battle for independence from Spain in 1810.

How Do People Celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo is largely only celebrated in Puebla, Mexico, where the battle took place. Here, people will participate in battle reenactments and military parades. In fact, Cinco de Mayo is not even recognized as a national holiday or federal holiday in Mexico. 

However, in America, this holiday is observed more commonly. It is thought that Mexican-Americans began to celebrate the holiday during the American Civil War in California. These celebrations were political rallies to support Mexico during the Franco-Mexican War. 

This holiday also became popularized by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy, enacted in 1933 to improve relations with Latin America. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, beer companies began to use the celebration of Cinco de Mayo for marketing purposes.

While people usually celebrate Cinco de Mayo by going out to eat Mexican food like tacos and partying, there are many ways that you can celebrate Cinco de Mayo in a culturally respectful way. 

For example, try supporting local authentic Mexican restaurants and businesses, engaging with Mexican culture, art, and music, or even traveling to Puebla yourself to learn about the holiday in an authentic way.

What Is the History of Cinco de Mayo?

According to History and Britannica, the Battle of Puebla took place in 1861 after President Benito Juárez defaulted on European debt payments. In return, the British, Spanish, and French naval forces came to Veracruz, Mexico to get their money.

While Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico peacefully, Napoleon III-ruled France decided to try and take over the Mexican territory with a French fleet instead. Under General Charles Latrille de Lorencez, the French invaded Puebla, but Mexico’s General Ignacio Zaragoza stopped the attack with the Mexican army. In this battle, Mexico lost about 100 soldiers, while the French troops retreated after losing 500 men. 

After this battle, the Mexican government, supported by the United States, was able to force France to withdraw in 1867. This was the same year that Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian was executed. Maximilian was named Mexico’s emperor by Napoleon in 1864. All of these events were considered a great victory for the independence of the Mexican people.

What Are Translations of Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo is a Spanish phrase that directly translates to the fifth of May. If you are living or traveling in another country, knowing how to say and understand different dates is very helpful. 

Study the below list of translations of May fifth from Nice Translator in order to learn how to communicate about this holiday no matter where you are in the world. 

Not all countries celebrate Cinco de Mayo. In fact, this is largely an American holiday. If you are in a country that is not America or Mexico, people probably do not celebrate Cinco de Mayo unless they are of Mexican heritage. 

  • Vietnamese: Ngày năm tháng năm
  • Malayalam: മെയ് അഞ്ചാം
  • Slovenian: Maj peti
  • Malay: Mei Kelima
  • Bulgarian: Май пети
  • Japanese: 月日
  • Italian: Quinto maggio
  • Czech: Květen pátý
  • Hindi: पांचवें मई
  • German: Der fünfte Mai
  • Bengali: পঞ্চম মে
  • Indonesian: Mei kelima
  • Amharic: ኤምያስ ሊሆን ይችላል
  • Hungarian: Május ötödik
  • Greek: Μάιος πέμπτος
  • Urdu: پانچویں مئی
  • Hebrew: מאי החמישי
  • Ukrainian: П’яте травня
  • French: Cinquième mai
  • Swahili: Mei tano
  • Romanian: A cincea mai
  • Norwegian: Femte mai
  • Swedish: Femte maj
  • Tamil: மே ஐந்தாவது
  • Welsh: Mai Pumed
  • Kannada: ಮೇ ಐದನೇ
  • Portuguese (Portugal): Maio em quinto
  • Gujarati: પાંચમા મે
  • Catalan: Cinquè de maig
  • Latvian: Maijs Piektais
  • Chinese (PRC): 月五月
  • Serbian: Пети
  • Croatian: Svibanj peti
  • Dutch: May vijfde
  • Polish: Piąty maja
  • Finnish: Toukokuuta viidenneksi
  • Arabic: قد الخامس
  • Lithuanian: Gegužės penktoji
  • Estonian: Mai viies
  • Filipino: Maaaring pang -lima
  • Danish: Maj femte
  • Korean: 월 일
  • Basque: Maiatzaren bosgarren
  • Telugu: మే ఐదవ
  • Chinese (Taiwan): 月五月
  • Thai: พฤษภาคมที่ห้า
  • Slovak: Máj piaty
  • Turkish: Beşinci olabilir
  • Russian: Пятый май
  • Portuguese (Brazil): Maio em quinto
  • Marathi: पाचवा मे
  • Icelandic: Fimmta maí


Now you know the history of the holiday Cinco de Mayo, which is not, as many believe, Mexico’s Independence Day. No matter where you are, from Mexico City to Los Angeles, to New York, Texas, Chicago, and beyond, you can celebrate this holiday in a way that is respectful to Hispanic and Latino people of Mexican heritage.


May Fifth | Nice Translator 

Cinco de Mayo 2022: Facts, Meaning & Celebrations | HISTORY 

Cinco de Mayo | History, Celebrations, & Facts | Britannica

What Is Cinco de Mayo and Why Do We Celebrate It? | Reader’s Digest