About This Festival
Pack your bags for Puebla, Mexico’s food capital, for Cinco de Mayo—a state holiday that honors the triumph of a scrappy group of Mexican locals and soldiers over a well-armed French army in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. This isn’t the Cinco de Mayo you know in the United States, and the holiday isn’t celebrated as heavily in the rest of Mexico as it is in Puebla. So why not check it out at the source?
Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo is often mislabeled as Mexico's Independence Day (mostly by U.S. distributors of tequila and margarita mix). The date instead marks the day of May 5, 1862, when, marching from Veracruz to Mexico City, the well-outfitted French army encountered a much smaller Mexican militia and was soundly defeated. (The Mexican victory was short-lived; a year later, France invaded again and ruled the country for three years.)
Predictably, the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in Mexico is here in Puebla. The biggest event of the day is a full-blown military parade that lasts for hours and winds through the city. Never far from the celebrations are the thousands of food stands selling festival treats, including Poblano favorites.
Every Cinco de Mayo, thousands of students, military, charros, and public-safety personnel march alongside a wealth of colorful floats in the state’s annual parade. Some details change from year to year, but the one thing that remains constant is the length of the parade. It begins around 11 am, and can last for hours.
It’s always good to spend some time watching the parade live, because unless you come from a country or region where you regularly view military parades, it’s a sight to see. But after a few hours in the sun, pack it up and retire to an outdoor table at a restaurant and watch the rest on flat-screen TVs that are scattered around.
Art and Food
Cinco de Mayo, while just one day, isn’t only about the parade. Puebla has extended the celebration to nearly 20 days of cultural arts with concerts, dance exhibitions and theatrical performances that take place in the days leading up to, and on, May 5. Additionally, a walk through the historical center of the city will lead you past art and handicrafts displays, Talavera shops and regional candies worth a try.
Head to the Cinco de Mayo forts for the Puebla State Fair, which conveniently runs around this time of year. Packed with family fun like arcade games, carnival food, live entertainment and rides, there’s plenty to find here if you’re looking for more ways to celebrate.
Puebla is often considered the gastronomic capital of Mexico, but don’t spend every last minute in restaurants. Because most of the city's historical sights are focused in the city's center, the original heart of Puebla retains the feeling of a small, colonial town. Walk through the historic center and try not to be distracted by the colorful buildings and ceramic tiles that glint in the sun.
The center of Puebla, the Plaza de Armas, is lined with shade trees and dotted with benches, attracts everyone from tourists to clowns to musicians. On one side is Puebla's neck-craning cathedral, which has the tallest church towers in Mexico. The cathedral is one of more than 60 churches and former convents in town.