Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Ryan. Ryan Wonders, “why do we celebrate cinco de mayo” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Ryan!

People in the United States celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July. Many people believe Cinco de Mayo—“5th of May” in Spanish—is a celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day.

But they’re wrong! Mexico’s Independence Day is actually September 16th.

So what is Cinco de Mayo? It’s a holiday that celebrates the victory of the Mexican army over the French army on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla. Led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín, the poorly equipped Mexican army made a stand against French forces near the forts of Loreto and Guadalupe.

Even though the French had more soldiers—about 8,000 men to the Mexicans’ 4,000—the Mexican army won. People thought the French army was the best in the world at the time and had not lost a battle in nearly 50 years. This victory became a source of pride for the Mexican people.

While the victory was short-lived—the French later captured Mexico City and took over the country—it stood for a moral victory for the Mexican government. It became a symbol of unity and pride for people who were supposed to lose a battle.

Today, Cinco de Mayo is not that important in Mexico. They mainly celebrate it in the state of Puebla. In Mexico, they honor Independence Day on September 16, which is the nation’s most important national holiday.

In the United States, though, Cinco de Mayo has become a way to honor Mexican culture and heritage. Areas of the country with large groups of Mexican-American people—such as Portland, Denver, and Chicago—have large festivals. Even people who are not of Mexican descent go to parades and parties, and enjoy traditional music, dancing, and foods.

Research estimates that over 150 places in the United States have official Cinco de Mayo celebrations each year. They display banners and traditional Mexican symbols, such as the Virgin of Guadalupe, during events.

If you get the chance to check out a Cinco de Mayo party, be sure to try some authentic Mexican foods. Also keep an eye out for Mexican dancers and mariachi bands!

Wonder What's Next?

What do you get when you cross a lion with an eagle? Find out with tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day!