Cinco de Mayo Down Under: What’s it all about?

If you're bummed about the fact that Christmas, New Year’s and the Easter long weekend celebrations have ended, then we totally understand. But fear not, fiesta lovers, because there's another awesome holiday just around the corner - Cinco de Mayo!

What is Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo - Spanish for the fifth of May - is a Mexican holiday that celebrates the country's victory over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It's a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, but in recent years it has become increasingly popular in other parts of the world, particularly the United States and Australia, for its association with partying.

But before we launch into the different types of Cinco de Mayo celebrations Down Under, let's backtrack a bit. This holiday is after all rooted in history, so it's worth diving into that before we get carried away doing La Cucaracha.

The history of Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla, which took place on May 5th, 1862. In the 1860s, Mexico was in the midst of a civil war and the new republican government was struggling to maintain control.

France, meanwhile, saw an opportunity to expand its empire and intervened on behalf of the Mexican conservatives. The French army was significantly larger and better equipped than the Mexican forces. According to historical records, their numbers were over 6,000 while the Mexicans had just a couple of thousand inexperienced and poorly equipped soldiers.

In spite of the seemingly insurmountable odds, the Mexican army under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín managed to defeat the French. This victory was a significant morale boost for the republicans and helped turn the tide of the war. Now, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated as a national holiday in Mexico. It's a day off work for federal employees and there are usually military parades, re-enactments of the Battle of Puebla and other festivities.

Why is it so popular in Australia?

Why is this patriotic Mexican holiday so popular in Australia though? Well, it’s because the history behind Cinco de Mayo is a tale about an underdog. And nobody likes a good underdog story more than us Aussies, right?

We love the battler, the average bloke or sheila, the punter who had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Think Cathy Freeman at the Sydney Olympics or cult Australian speed skater Steven Bradbury, who famously won gold at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City after all his competitors crashed out.

Australia is a nation enamoured by the legend of the underdog, so it’s no surprise that Cinco de Mayo has become a popular celebration Down Under. Plus, let's not forget either that Australians just love Mexican culture. There are Mexican restaurants and food trucks on almost every corner, and we can't get enough of their delicious cuisine (fish tacos, anyone?).

Oh... and don't even get us started on Margaritas! Not only do they make tequila enjoyable, but they're practically a necessity for any rager - just ask Kev the eucalyptus-tequila loving koala.

Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Australia

If all of this talk about Cinco de Mayo has you feeling festive, then you’ll be pleased to know that there are heaps of things you can do to celebrate the fifth of May.

You could organise a Mexican-themed fiesta at your house, complete with Mexican food, margaritas and mariachi music. Or you could check out one of the Cinco de Mayo happenings at your local Mexican taqueria or margarita bar - there's guaranteed to be one in every capital city.

Cinco de Mayo traditions

For those of you who are looking to really get into the Cinco de Mayo spirit, there are a few traditional Mexican games that are often played during celebrations.

First up is loteria, which is similar to bingo. The game is usually played with a deck of 54 cards, each of which has a different image on it. These images represent different things, such as animals, plants or everyday objects. To play loteria, each player is dealt three cards. One player starts by calling out the name of an image, such as “el gallo” (the rooster). The next player then looks at their cards to see if they have that image. If they do, they cover it with a chip or bean. The first player to cover all of their images wins the game.

Another popular Cinco de Mayo game is piñata bash. This is a fun game for kids and adults alike! To play, you will need a piñata in the shape of an animal, star or other fun object. The piñata is filled with sweets, small toys and other treats. The game starts with the piñata being hung from a tree or ceiling. The players take turns hitting the piñata with a stick while blindfolded. Once the piñata is broken open, the players race to see who can gather the most goodies.

So there you have it - a little taste of Cinco de Mayo in Australia! Whether you choose to celebrate with a margarita in hand or by playing some traditional Mexican games, we hope you have a fantastic fifth of May.


Feliz Cinco de Mayo from Fair Go!

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