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Cinco de Mayo: America’s Favorite Mexican Holiday

Cinco de Mayo: America’s Favorite Mexican Holiday

Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for Fifth of May) is an annual celebration that commemorates Mexico's victory over the French forces of Napoleon III at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

In one of the great ironies of Mexican history, this holiday is more popular in the U.S. than in Mexico. Cinco de Mayo is sometimes mistaken for Mexico's Independence Day, an important national holiday celebrated on September 16. (Mexico declared its independence from Spanish rule on that date in 1810).

Aside from military parades and historical reenactments in Puebla and a few other cities, Cinco de Mayo is not widely celebrated south of the border. May 5 is not a federal holiday. Banks, offices and stores remain open, though public schools are closed nationwide.

North of the border and around the world? That’s a different story. Cinco de Mayo, widely featured in entertainment media, has become a celebration of Mexican culture, cuisine, and heritage, even among people of non-Mexican heritage. In the U.S., this 162-year-old martial victory has been enthusiastically adopted as the day to sip margaritas, eat tacos, drink Mexican beer and munch on churros, a popular dessert.

The holiday spread from California to the rest of the U.S. and really grew in the 1960s, when Mexican immigrants and Chicano activists adopted the holiday as a way to foster pride in their Mexican heritage. 

However, the holiday did not gain widespread popularity until the 1980s, when advertising campaigns by beer and spirits companies capitalized on the celebratory nature of the day. These promotions resonated. In recent years, Cinco de Mayo beer sales have surpassed those of St. Patrick's Day and the Super Bowl.

Any excuse for a party? Cinco de Mayo definitely calls for a fiesta. It may be a non-event in Mexico except in tourist destinations such as Los Cabos, but the revelry in the U.S. on May 5 is robust.

In addition to Mexican beer and tequila and Mariachi music, traditional Mexican foods, from enchiladas to tostadas, are a big part of a Cinco de Mayo celebration. But it’s the margarita, currently the most in-demand cocktail in the world, that’s most closely associated with Cinco de Mayo.

It’s a simple drink with only three ingredients, but there are many variations. The basic margarita calls for 2 ounces of tequila, 1 ounce of orange liqueur, and one ounce of fresh lime juice. Salt on the rim of the glass is optional. The drink is generally served shaken with ice.

If you are in, here are a four places to get a superior margarita and raise a glass to Cinco de Mayo.

- Lobby Bar, Sunset Beach. Order the Signature Margarita, made with top-shelf Clas Azul tequila (the one in the blue and white ceramic bottle), Cointreau, Grand Marnier, agave syrup, fresh lime and lemon juice. It is impeccable.
- Quivira Steakhouse. Located in the thatched roof clubhouse at Quivira Golf Club within earshot of the surf, the club’s open-air bar is one of the best 19th holes in Los Cabos. The bartenders here have mastered the art of shaking up the perfect margarita for thirsty golfers.
- The After at Quivira. This stylish, urban-themed sports bar within The Market stocks a definitive collection of fine tequilas. The cocktail menu features a variety of margaritas. Stuck for a choice? Try the Strawberry Margarita, a house specialty.
- Peninsula Lounge. This relaxing, open-air bar and lounge at Pacifica is a stone’s throw from the beach. With its smooth wooden deck and plush, comfortable seating, it’s a great place to relax and unwind. Peninsula Lounge is known for its artisanal cocktails, none better than its classic margarita on the rocks.