Cinco de Mayo is a holiday commemorating just one event: The Battle of Puebla, which was a day of victory for the Mexican army against the French in 1862. Over 150 years later, people still mistake the holiday for Mexican Independence Day which is September 16. Today, Cinco de Mayo has come to be a general celebration of Mexican-American culture.
In Los Angeles, which was, of course, once upon a time part of Mexico, the holiday was once a day of civic pageantry. Here are some images from our photo collection that show celebrations from 1920s to the 1970s, when dancers, musicians, political figures, and everyday Angelenos gathered in the community to pay tribute to the area's rich Mexican culture and heritage.
Mexican Cinco de Mayo dancers: Herald-Examiner Collection, May 2, 1940
The original battle of Puebla is re-enacted at a Cinco de Mayo fete on May 5, 1960
Dancers at the first day of the Cinco de Mayo celebration on Olvera Street, at the Plaza, on May 4, 1975
Cinco de Mayo preparations: Herald-Examiner Collection, 1952
Historic Avila House on Olvera Street with Miguel Garcia, Margarita Garcia, Virginia Henandez, and Beatrice Aguirre: Herald-Examiner Collection, 1953
Participants at Cinco de Mayo celebration: Shades of LA Collection, 1925
Girls in Mexican costumes perform a dance at a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the William Mead Homes Housing Project: Housing Authority Collection
Girls share candied apples at a Cinco de Mayo celebration at Ramona Gardens, 1945
A Booklist for Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo: Yesterday and Today
Cinco de Mayo: A Mexican Holiday About Unity and Pride
Cinco de Mayo: Celebrating the Traditions of Mexico
El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition
Cinco de Mayo: Se Celebra el Orgullo
Celebra el Cinco de Mayo con un Jarabe Tapatío
Celebrate! It's Cinco de Mayo!/¡Celebremos! ¡Es el Cinco de Mayo!