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What Cinco de Mayo Looked Like in Vintage Los Angeles

Tina Lerno, Librarian, Digital Content Team,
Cinco de Mayo plus colorful banners
Cinco de Mayo celebration at City Hall: Herald-Examiner Collection, 1949

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

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

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

Dancers at the first day of the Cinco de Mayo celebration on Olvera Street, at the Plaza, on May 4, 1975

Louise Orona (left), who is showing Alberto Mecerra Sierra, consul of Mexico, one of the Latin-American dancing steps, as Maria Bustos looks on.

Cinco de Mayo preparations: Herald-Examiner Collection, 1952

historic Avila House on Olvera Street participants placed flowers before a portrait of Gen. Ignacio Zaragaza, who overthrew the Austrian leader. In the group are: Miguel Garcia, Margarita Garcia, Virginia Henandez, and Beatrice Aguirre.

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, circa 1925.

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.

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.

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
Urrutia, Ma. Cristina (Maria Cristina).

Cinco de Mayo: A Mexican Holiday About Unity and Pride
Garcia, James.

Cinco de Mayo: Celebrating the Traditions of Mexico
Hoyt-Goldsmith, Diane.

El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition
Hayes-Bautista, David E., 1945-

Cinco de Mayo
Owens, L. L.

Cinco de Mayo
Riehecky, Janet, 1953-

El Cinco de Mayo
Lowery, Linda

Cinco de Mayo: Se Celebra el Orgullo
Gnojewski, Carol

Celebra el Cinco de Mayo con un Jarabe Tapatío
Campoy, F. Isabel

Celebrate! It's Cinco de Mayo!/¡Celebremos! ¡Es el Cinco de Mayo!
Levy, Janice


 

 

 

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