In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo (meaning "fifth of May" in Spanish) is not a federal holiday but rather a voluntary holiday that is observed all over the country on May 5. The occassion commemorates the victory of the Mexican army over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Naturally, there are parades organised by the military and even schools around the nation to honour all the soldiers and civilians who gave their lives in the battle for their country.
Many people wake up early to watch these marching bands pass through the street. In the state of Puebla as well as in many other Spanish cities, there are enthusiastic celebrations on this day. Entertainment stalls known as "Zocalo"s are set up temporarily where people of all ages enjoy themselves with food, music, and dancing. In the Penon de los Banos, a small neighborhood in Mexico City, the historic battle of Puebla is recreated by local actors to mark the occassion, a tradition that has been kept alive for many generations. In most towns, fairs are organised where people enjoy the rides and play games. The holiday ends with the traditional shouts of 'Viva Mexico'.
Much like in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday in the United States though the occassion here is celebrated with greater gusto. This is predominantly a holiday of the Mexican-Americans and the festival showcases their pride and heritage in the country. The main celebrations occur in cities that boast of a sizeable Mexican population, such as Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, San Antonio, Sacramento, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Denver and El Paso in the Southwest of the USA. The occassion is essentially celebrated in the traditional Mexican way, complete with parades, mariachi music, folklorico dancing and similar festivities that smell of Mexican life and culture. This is the time when business houses promote everything Mexican, right from household products to food and drinks to music and movies. Several schools organise special events to enligten and inform pupils about the history and significance of Cinco de Mayo. In some areas, particularly in Pubelo de Los Angeles, celebrations of regional Mexican music and dancing are held.
Los Angeles witnesses one of the greatest Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the United States. The largest Cinco de Mayo street fair in the world is annually organised in this south Californian city and sees traditional celebration with mariachis, folklorico dancers, pinatas, carnival rides, games, music, dance and lots of food and other funfilled activities that are enthusiastically performed by almost every member of the local Mexican American community. There are also many smaller celebrations in individual neighborhoods.
That Texas was once a part of Mexico is evident from the many Mexican traditions that still remain alive in the state. Cinco de Mayo is a highly popular Mexican holiday in Texas and is observed with great fervor in regions like San Marcos, Capitol City and San Antonio.