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Cinco de Mayo: Learn its history, how to celebrate it in St. Louis

Despite popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day. Here's the real story behind the holiday.

ST. LOUIS — Cinco de Mayo, which translates to the fifth of May, is not Mexican Independence Day, contrary to popular belief. It celebrates the Mexican army’s May 5, 1862, victory at the Battle of Puebla in the Franco-Mexican War, according to History.com.

Editor's note: The above video aired May 4, 2022.

What is Cinco de Mayo?

Although not a major win in the overall war, the 1862 victory over France at Puebla was a great symbol of Mexican resistance. Led by Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza, the outnumbered and poorly supplied Mexican troops were able to overcome the retreating French soldiers in a battle that lasted from daybreak to early evening, according to History.com.

The holiday is not widely observed in Mexico, but traditions in Puebla and other parts of the country include military parades, recreations of the battle and other festivities.

In the U.S., however, the holiday took off due to the efforts of Chicano activists in the 1960s, according to History.com. Now, the day brings parties, parades, mariachi music and Mexican food, with some of the largest celebrations taking place in Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston.

How St. Louis is celebrating

STL Taco Fest is taking over Kiener Plaza Park from 1-8 p.m. Friday in downtown St. Louis. VIP tickets cost $69 and include a swag bag with Taco Vibe goodies, a tequila tasting with Una Vida Tequila and vouchers for two tacos and a drink from 4 Hands Brewery. The event will also include live entertainment and local artists.

The Cinco de Mayo Cherokee Street Festival will stretch between Nebraska to Jefferson avenues. The festival, which goes from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, celebrates the rich Hispanic culture or the south St. Louis area. According to the festival’s website, more than 100 vendors will pack Cherokee Street with traditional Mexican street food, margaritas, sweet treats, clothing, face painting and more available to purchase.

Spend the day after Cinco de Mayo working off those tacos with a 1.6-mile running course around the lake at Rivers Edge Park in Chesterfield Valley. The Cinco 5K race begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Afterward, enjoy snacks and margaritas in the park’s parking lot.

Local Latino businesses to support

Another way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo is to support one (or more) of the many Latino-owned businesses in the St. Louis area. The following restaurants and stores are members of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan St. Louis:


  • APEX Restaurant and Market Solutions, 314 Marshall Road, Suite A, Valley Park, Missouri.
  • Asador del Sur, 7322 Manchester Road, Maplewood, Missouri.
  • Ballpark Village, 601 Clark St., St. Louis.
  • Butler’s Pantry, 1414 Park Ave., St. Louis.
  • El Salto Mexican Restaurant, 966 Chesterfield Center Road, Chesterfield, Missouri.
  • McDonald’s, 4407 Lemay Ferry Road, St. Louis.
  • Golden Hoosier, 3707 South Kingshighway, St. Louis.
  • Guido’s Pizzeria and Tapas, 5046 Shaw Ave., St. Louis.
  • Havana’s Cuisine, 1131 Washington Ave., St. Louis.
  • Malinche, 15939 Manchester Road, Ellisville, Missouri.
  • Midwest Pasta, 631 Big Bend Road, Manchester, Missouri.
  • Panera Bread, 3630 South Geyer Road, St. Louis.
  • Restaurant Su Sasita, 1901 Woodson Road, St. Louis.
  • Sal y Limon, 3798 Falcon View Drive, Arnold, Missouri.
  • The Fattened Caf., 3407 South Jefferson Ave., St. Louis.
  •  Yemanja Brasil, 2900 Missouri Ave., St. Louis.
  • Chimi’s Fresh-Mex, St. Louis.
  • Elicia’s Pizza, 6645 Gravois, St. Louis.
  • Gulf Shores Restaurant & Grill, 215 Harvard Drive, Edwardsville, Illinois.
  • La Taco Cantina, 11429 Dorsett Road, Maryland Heights, Missouri.
  • Maria Medina, 17411 Wyman Ridge Drive, Eureka, Missouri.
  • Padrinos Mexican Restaurant, 3143 South Grand Blvd., St. Louis.
  • Polite Society Restaurant & Bar, 1923 Park Ave., St. Louis.
  • SURESTE Mexican, 3745 Foundry Way, St. Louis.
  • The Pasta Factory, 3103 West Broadway, Suite 109, Columbia, Missouri.
  • The Woodshack Soulard, 1862 South 10th St., St. Louis.


  • Bespoke Apparel, 169 Lamp and Lantern Village, Town and County, Missouri.
  • LAUNCH Clothing & Accessories, 2008 Marconi Ave., St. Louis.
  • Lux Watch Straps, 601 Brodmoore Drive, Apartment B, Chesterfield, Missouri.
  • Make A Statement, St. Louis.
  • Minas Coffee, 4767 Signature Industrial Drive, Edwardsville, Illinois.
  • Sherwin Williams, 2145 Schuetz Road, Suite 200, St. Louis.
  • Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More, 6667 Edwardsville Crossing Drive, Edwardsville, Illinois.
  • Fastsigns, 2570 South Brentwood Blvd., Brentwood, Missouri.
  • Fresh Thyme, 3701 Foundry Way, Suite 201, St. Louis.
  • Home Depot, 5501 Belleville Crossings, Belleville, Illinois.
  • Schnucks, 11420 Lackland Road, St. Louis.

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