Cinco de Mayo: Celebrating Our Northern Neighbor Mexico in Belize

by Carolee Chanona

On the Caribbean coast of northern Central America, the English-speaking nation of Belize shares a border with both Guatemala and Mexico. Naturally, it’s not uncommon for some of that Yucatán heritage to seep over into our borders, and Cinco de Mayo is no exception. More than just an excuse to sink into tacos and tequila, Cinco de Mayo is a historical date in Mexican history, serving as a vehicle to convey Mexican deep culture, pride, and values. As an ode to our neighbor to the North, here are a few commonly asked questions about Cinco de Mayo and what that means for us in Belize.

What exactly is the holiday?

Commonly mistaken for Mexico’s Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo instead celebrates an unlikely victory over France in the 1962 Battle of Puebla; Cinco de Mayo is to Mexico what the Battle of St. George’s Caye Day is to us in Belize. Then-president of Mexico Benito Juárez suspended the nation’s foreign debt payments to France and Napolean III responded with an invasion. After being outnumbered three-to-one and later occupied, the new Mexican Republic finally expelled the French in 1867—which included the execution of Maximilian I.

When is Cinco de Mayo celebrated?

Cinco de Mayo literally means “May 5” in Spanish, which is when this celebration of Mexican heritage falls each year.

Is Cinco de Mayo celebrated in Belize?

Cinco de Mayo is not recognized as a holiday in Belize, but the day is mostly commemorated with light-hearted celebrations across the country, primarily in Belize’s resorts and restaurants. Within Mexico, the main festivities are largely held within Puebla City, near where the original battle took place. The day extends to a month-long party, with fairs, plays and concerts held citywide. On 5 May itself, a re-enactment of the original battle takes place at Penon de Los Banos, while a frenzy of colorful floats, traditional mariachi bands, and locals dressed in period costume (and fuelled by margaritas) march through the streets in a spectacular display. On Saturday, May 7, 2022, the President of the Republic of Mexico, His Excellency Andrés Manuel López Obrador will also be making an official visit to Belize.

Looking to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Mexico instead? Learn more about Belize’s land border entry requirements here for when you return.

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