Cinco de Mayo history and celebrations around San Diego

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Every year on the 5th of May, people gather to celebrate the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla, which day is known as Cinco de Mayo.

According to, Cinco de Mayo isn’t widely celebrated in Mexico, but in America, the holiday has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in large Mexican-American areas.

In 1861, Benito Juárez became president of the country during a time of economic instability. According to, he was forced to default on his debts to European governments. In response, France, Britain and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruzto and demanded reimbursement.

Britain and Spain were able to negotiate with Mexico, but France decided to use the opportunity to carve a dependent empire out of Mexican territory. Juarez and his army were unprepared for France’s attack and they were forced to retreat. 

After this defeat, Juarez gathered together an army of 2,000 loyal men and sent them to Puebla.

According to, on May 5, 1862, French General Charles Latrille de Lorencez drew his army before the city of Puebla and led an assault from the north. The battle lasted from daybreak to early evening, and when the French finally retreated, they had lost nearly 500 soldiers.

Holiday traditions include parades, mariachi music performances and street festivals in cities and towns across Mexico and the United States.

Below is a list of Cindo de Mayo events around San Diego:

  • Fiesta Old Town Cinco de Mayo
    Each year thousands flock to Old Town, San Diego’s oldest, historic neighborhood, to take a step back in time and celebrate! 
    • Seis de Mayo – Friday, May 6th
      4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fiesta Old Town Cinco de Mayo Festival
    • Siete de Mayo – Saturday, May 7th
      9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Ballet Folklorico Competition
      11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fiesta Old Town Cinco de
    • Mayo Festival Ocho de Mayo – Sunday, May 8th
      Dia de las Madres
      10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Ballet Folklorico Competition
      11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fiesta Old Town Cinco de Mayo Festival
  • De Mayo Celebrates Bike Month in San Diego
    City of San Diego Councilmember David Alvarez will join the Bike Coalition to host a community event and celebrate the power of bicycles to make communities better, kicking off a month of bicycle events region-wide. The short Cyclo de Mayo ride presents the opportunity for new riders to join a supportive, slow group ride and experience the basics of riding on San Diego’s streets first hand. 
    • 5:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.: Coucilmember David Alvarez makes opening remarks at Quartyard (1102 Market Street)
    • 5:45 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.: Casual bike ride from Quartyard to Barrio Logan and back
    • 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Bike Month celebration and festivities at Quartyard
  • Cincoteca Dos at Puesto
    Fun and free for all ages, this Cinco de Mayo extravaganza will feature live music, margarita specials, lobster nachos, street tacos, dance performances, and more at The Headquarters in Seaport. Admission is free, starts at 3:30 p.m., and open to families.
  • Listen to Mariachi El Bronx at the Belly Up
    Mariachi is one of Mexico’s most signature musical sounds that has influenced the way Mexicans dance, sing, perform, dress, and play instruments. Mariachi style varies from decade to decade, region to region. Mariachi El Bronx defies tradition by releasing tunes that offer their own take on mariachi. The band plays at 7 p.m., tickets are $25, and the event is ages 21 and up only.

Local law enforcement is also asking for drivers to be safe as they are out celebrating over the holiday weekend.

Deputies will conduct extra patrols in their various jurisdictions Thursday and plan to set up a checkpoint in Imperial Beach Saturday, according to a sheriff’s department statement. 

"No matter what day it is, you should never drink and drive,” Sheriff Bill Gore said in the statement. "If you do drink, have a designated driver ready or call a taxi or ride-sharing service.”

Deputies also plan to set up checkpoints in Santee May 13, in Lemon Grove May 27 and in Poway May 28.

Chula Vista police will conduct a similar checkpoint operation at an undisclosed location in the city from 6 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday.

Officers will also check for license violations, police said.

Categories: Local San Diego News