American Cinco de Mayo outshines its boring roots

Growing up in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo celebrations were about as exciting as Arbor Day. The American version may not be authentic, but it’s even better than the real thing.

I lived in Mexico City until I was 13 and every Cinco de Mayo was always the same: boring!

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is mostly celebrated in Puebla. They have military parades, festivals and battle recreations, which represent the victory of the 2000 indigenous poorly-armed troops over France’s 6000 soldiers in 1862.

Even though this was an impressive win, Cinco the Mayo is a minor holiday (often confused in the U.S. as Mexico’s Independence Day) that looks a lot different from the festive parties I see now in the U.S.

The majority of Mexicans do not celebrate the holiday much. They just watch the army parades on television.


Yaay a military parade TV marathon! This was the Cinco de Mayo Alejandra knew growing up in Mexico City. It’s a far cry from the piñata swinging, mariachi blasting fiestas we know in the U.S. (Photo via Flickr by LWY)

When I lived there, I would scan every single channel looking for something interesting to watch on May fifth, but all I found were the same boring parades.

The worst was in middle school when we would parade our flag around for an hour being very silent, still and looking forward. It was the longest hour of my life.

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has been adapted into a day to celebrate Hispanic heritage and build community away from home. There are celebrations in many parts of the U.S. with parades, traditional mariachi music, dancers and food.

I didn’t imagine people would celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the U.S. when I got here.

But there they were; flyers posted around the campus at Tacoma Community College that said “Come and celebrate Cinco de Mayo with us!”

Not knowing what to expect, I attended the event. I still remember that moment when I walked in the door. Green, white and red streamers were hanging from the ceiling. Little piñatas and tri-color balloons dotted the room.

It was beautiful.

I felt very happy and excited because it reminded me of Mexico. I had not gone to my country since I came to the U.S. So seeing these fiesta-like decorations made me smile.

Moments later, a mariachi band began to play and very traditional Mexican dancers danced along. Their dresses were colorful just like the ones in Mexico.

A mariachi band performs at a Cinco de Mayo party in the U.S. (U.S. Army Korea (Historical Image Archive) via Compfight cc)

A mariachi band performs at a Cinco de Mayo party in the U.S. (U.S. Army Korea (Historical Image Archive) via Compfight cc)

Then students lined up to get Mexican food; chicken quesadilla, rice, beans and horchata. Lastly we played loteria (Mexican bingo), a game I play with my family every time we all come together.

Even though I did not like Cinco de Mayo as a kid, it is now a memorable day in my life and I attend the campus party every year.

I have been away from my country for almost seven years and celebrating Cinco de Mayo makes me feel close to my country and to my family that I haven’t seen in years, especially my dad.

Even though I’m far from my country, it will always have a special room in my heart.


Alejandra is a student at Tacoma Community College working on a transfer degree. She is 21 years old and came to the U.S. from Mexico City seven years ago.


  1. i am happy for you that you feel that way i know how you feel been away for many years without seen you family… like you said before maybe it wasn’t that interesting in your home country celebrating Cinco de Mayo , but knowing you have been away from so long you found a connection to remember and show it to others people around you. thats make you special because that shows that you dont forget when you came from and you are proud of it….
    i wish you that best luck in the world and never give up in your hopes and dreams…

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