Cinco de Mayo Celebrates Wrong Kind of Alcohol Awareness

by: Mike Miller

When you think of the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo what comes to mind? If you are Mexican you might celebrate the day with food and drink. This too is the case for Americans and others looking for an opportunity to celebrate.

Most certainly, alcohol has become a major part of many Cinco de Mayo celebrations both within the Mexican community and especially others.

Here’s what Cinco de Mayo has become in the U.S.: a celebration of all things Mexican, from mariachi music to sombreros, marked by schools, politicians and companies selling everything from beans to beer.

Linked to the US Civil War

And here’s what Cinco de Mayo is not according to, despite all the signs in bar windows inviting revelers to drink: It’s not Mexico’s Independence Day, and it’s barely marked in Mexico, except in the state of Puebla, where the holiday is rooted in a complicated and short-lived 1862 military victory over the French.

The holiday has spread from the American Southwest, even though most are unaware of its original ties to the U.S. Civil War, abolition and promotion of civil rights for blacks.

Often mistaken for Mexican Independence Day (that’s Sept. 16), Cinco de Mayo commemorates the 1862 Battle of Puebla between the victorious ragtag army of largely Mexican Indian soldiers against the invading French forces of Napoleon III. Mexican Americans, during the Chicano Movement of the 1970s, adopted the holiday for its David vs. Goliath storyline as motivation for civil rights struggles in Texas and California.

With many more people celebrating it in the US, Cinco de Mayo is an American holiday. It is another excuse for people to get together and drink vast quantities of booze. 

For those of you who enjoy celebrating the battle and just getting together I apologize. As a counselor for both in-class and online alcohol classes I know from my students’ experiences that this is a major day to party.