¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Addie Adkins

That’s right, today is May 5, which means for many there will be tacos and margaritas on the menu for dinner tonight.

However, it’s not well known why Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in the first place. In Mexico, it is largely uncelebrated, except for in the state of Puebla. It is sometimes mistaken as Mexico’s Independence Day, which is Sept. 16. However, it’s really an anniversary of a battle won by Mexico in the Second French Intervention.

This holiday is celebrated more heavily in the U.S. than it is in Mexico, and that is largely thanks to the Chicano movement of the 1960s. In celebration of Mexican culture, activists adopted Cinco de Mayo with a goal to turn it into a holiday of cultural appreciation.

In honor of that goal, here are five ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo today.

Addie Atkins in a Mexican Dance Dress

Share the Real Story

According to History.com, in 1861 the Mexican government defaulted on loans to several European countries, causing some of these countries, namely Spain, Great Britain and France, to invade Mexico. While Spain and Great Britain withdrew quickly, France continued to battle on towards the capital with great success. That is, until it came upon the town of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

It is estimated that 6,000 French troops set out to attack Puebla. President Juarez gathered somewhere between 2,000 – 5,000 citizens who defended the town successfully from the French onslaught from daybreak to evening. The French retreated due to heavy casualties.

Even though the French ended up winning the invasion and occupying Mexico for a short time, this unlikely victory steeled the Mexican resistance, and Juarez declared Cinco de Mayo a national holiday, though it is no longer recognized as such.

Check Out Mexican Music

Listen to and follow Mexican or Mexican American music artists or playlists. Some of my favorite playlists on Spotify are ¡Viva Latino!, Urbano Rising and Mexican Party Anthems (for the more traditionally inclined).

Enjoy Authentic Mexican Food

Learn how to make an authentic Mexican meal. I would recommend Mole Poblano, the traditional dish of Puebla for Cinco de Mayo. Chalupas are another great choice.

Check Out the Margarita’s Cousin

If you are over 21, try a Paloma. It is the most popular Tequila-based drink in Mexico and is made with Tequila (Blanco is the best), pink grapefruit juice, lime and agave nectar. Finish with soda water and a slice of grapefruit or lime.

Learn About Traditional Dances

Watch a video of a traditional Mexican dance. The Jarabe Tapatío is considered the “national dance” of Mexico so videos can be widely found of it, but I also recommend watching a video of Los Voladores de Papantla for the excitement and the Concheros dance for insight into Mexico’s indigenous roots.