Viva la Mexico! Learn a bit of history behind the annual Cinco de Mayo holiday before checking out 14 places to celebrate in style.
Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. That is Sept. 16. May 5 actually celebrates the 1862 Mexican victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla.
The holiday, which isn't celebrated much in Mexico, crossed into the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s, as civil rights activists were attempting to build harmony between the two countries and cultures, according to Oscar Casares, a professor at the University of Texas-Austin.
It gained more attention in the 1980s when marketers, particularly beer companies, saw Cinco de Mayo as a way to capitalize on the holiday's celebratory nature, Casares says. Now here's a look at some great places to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this year.
Cayman Islands -- The Hard Rock Café in the Cayman Islands holds an air guitar competition for Cinco de Mayo. If you’re really into Cinco de Mayo, though, this probably isn’t the one for you – reports say that while there is live music, Coronas are on special for the evening, and that’s about it for fiesta activities.
San Marcos, Texas -- This south-central Texas city celebrates Cinco de Mayo with pageants, a parade, traditional dancing and a statewide menudo cook-off, according to Shindigz.
Vancouver -- For a truly unique experience, try parachuting into your Cinco de Mayo celebration. Skydive Vancouver in Canada has held several skydive “boogies” to celebrate May 5, and Skydive Orange in San Diego is advertising their own boogie this year.
Chicago -- The Windy City's parade and downtown festival attract about 100,000 visitors each year, according to Shindigz. It features live music and dancing, games and plenty of food.
San Antonio -- This Texas city holds a celebration in the city’s Market Square that features traditional music and dancing. In 2012, they added an art celebration, too, according to Shindigz. About 300,000 people are expected.
New York City -- The Big Apple offers multiple ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, including a large street fair in East Harlem and multiple pub crawl opportunities, according to party supply website Shindigz, which has a ranking of top Cinco de Mayo spots.
Reno, Nev. -- Reno's festival mixes more traditional entertainment with some newer features. In addition to Mexican wrestling and horse dancing, visitors can also watch a roller derby bout, amateur boxing and motorcycle stunt shows.
San Diego -- The Old Town area hosts a free Cinco de Mayo festival organizers describe as the largest in Southern California. Highlights include live entertainment, lowriders on display, a kids area and stage for the younger visitors and high-end tequila sampling for the grown-ups.
Phoenix -- Downtown Phoenix’s Cinco de Mayo celebrations attract more than 150,000 people, featuring traditional dancing, boxing matches and plenty of music and food, according to the Phoenix New Times.
Portland, Ore. -- Portland debuted its Cinco de Mayo fiesta in 1984, around the time it became a sister city to Guadalajara, Mexico. The weekend festival features loads of live entertainment, rides, a battle of the bands and a citizenship naturalization ceremony.
St. Paul, Minn. -- St. Paul may not be the first place you think of for a big Cinco de Mayo party, but the city’s West Side does put on a large block party. Highlights include a parade, lowrider car show and jalapeno eating contest.
Puebla, Mexico -- The Mexican state of Puebla celebrates Cinco de Mayo more than any other part of Mexico – which makes sense, since the battle the holiday commemorates took place in Puebla. This year, which marks the 150th anniversary of that battle, features a parade with 8,000 soldiers and 62 floats, a nighttime pyrotechnic display and a Marc Anthony concert, according to the website All About Puebla.
Los Angeles -- This city hosts what organizers bill as the biggest Cinco de Mayo party in the world; the Fiesta Broadway spans 12 blocks and attracts 500,000 each year, according to organizers.
Denver -- The Mile High City's popular Cinco de Mayo festival has been held every year since 1988, and has grown from a neighborhood street fair to an event that attracts 300,000 to 450,000 people, according to various estimates. Events include a parade, green chili cook-off and Chihuahua races.
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