Cinco de Mayo in Des Moines

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Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Des Moines

Tacos! Margaritas! These are common stereotypes associated with Cinco de Mayo. However, there is much more significance to this day and many ways we can celebrate respectfully with our families in the Des Moines area. Read on to learn more about how to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Des Moines, Iowa.

What is Cinco de Mayo?

Translated literally as May 5th, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day from Spain (it’s actually on September 16th), but the day that Mexico won victory over France in the Battle of Puebla (a state in Mexico) in 1862. French troops invaded Mexico in 1861 after the Mexican president, Benito Juarez, stopped their debt payments. Although Mexico won the battle, they did not force out French troops until 1867.

Why is it celebrated?

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in the state of Puebla with parades, music, and fireworks to mark the day the Battle of Puebla was won. However, it’s not a federal holiday and isn’t really celebrated in the rest of Mexico.

There are different theories regarding the start of the celebration in the United States. It was celebrated in California in 1863 when Mexicans and Americans raised money and recruited troops to help Mexico defeat the French. At this time the Civil War was raging in the United States and so many were fighting against democracy and white supremacists both in Mexico and California where most Latinos hoped for a Union victory. 

Later celebrations may have been encouraged to continue with the Mexican dictator and general during the Battle of Puebla, Porfirio Diaz, who celebrated the day after he was exiled in America. Another theory is that migrant farmworkers in 1930s California had an easier time celebrating this holiday instead of Mexico’s Independence Day because of the timing of their lemon crop season.

Cinco de Mayo became a day to celebrate cultural pride for Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the United States. However, this message has been weakened by brewing companies promoting it as a day for consuming beer and tequila and commercialization of the Latino culture.

How can we celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

There are many ways we can respectfully celebrate the holiday with our families. These include:

1. Teach your kids the history of Cinco de Mayo and why it’s celebrated. This can help change stereotypes as well as develop an appreciation for Mexican culture.

2. Enjoy Mexican foods from local businesses. Order authentic Mexican food from a local Mexican restaurant to support small business owners. Consider trying Mole Poblano, which originated from the city of Puebla. Some favorites include:

3. Celebrate Mexican heritage in Valley Junction. Each year the Historic Valley Junction Foundation holds a Cinco de Mayo celebration. The Festival Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican heritage of many railroad workers who helped bring the railroad to Des Moines when Valley Junction was being established. Celebrate with live music, dancing, Mexican food, artwork, and other family activities. It will be held on May 4th, 2024.

4. Volunteer or donate to organizations that help our Latino community. Here are a few ideas:

  • Al Exito: Provides programs and mentoring for middle and high school Latino students and families. Click here to support.
  • Latino Center of Iowa: This organization works to develop and share Latino culture within the community. Volunteer or donate here.
  • Latina Leadership Initiative of Greater Des Moines: Supporting Latinas in a leadership program and professional advancement. Volunteer or donate here.
Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L is an occupational therapist turned (mostly) stay-at-home mom. She has worked with adults to young toddlers and has a special interest in early childhood development targeting fine motor skills, feeding, sensory processing, and coordination. She loves incorporating this knowledge with her own two little boys through play. When she’s not running after her little ones she enjoys traveling, cooking new recipes and eating chocolate from her secret stash.

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