Cinco de Mayo is popular, but meaning lost on most Americans


    Artwork from the Sofia Quintero Center that will be on display for the Cinco de Mayo celebration.

    Photo by Elliot Charney

  • Artwork from the Sofia Quintero Center that will be on display for the Cinco de Mayo celebration.
    Artwork from the Sofia Quintero Center that will be on display for the Cinco de Mayo celebration.

    Cinco de Mayo is America’s most popular Mexican holiday.

    Celebrated with music, dancing and festive food, the holiday has, ironically, taken on more significance in the United States than in Mexico.

    However, Maria Rodriguez-Winter, interim executive director of the Sofia Quintero Art & Cultural Center in Toledo, is afraid most Americans don’t know what exactly they’re celebrating.

    “Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the U.S. have become really popular at bars. Everybody wants to celebrate,” Ms. Rodriguez-Winter said. “But nobody knows what it means. They think it’s an opportunity to go out and drink.”

    Spanish for May 5, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 during the Franco-Mexican War. Although it wasn’t a major win in the overall war against the French, the triumph represented a great symbolic victory for the Mexican government. The annual celebration began in the southwestern United States, and in the past 30 years has continually spread eastward.

    This year, the SQACC, will host guest speakers, cultural events, art and educational series to help people better understand Cinco de Mayo and the true reason behind the celebration.

    Artwork from the Sofia Quintero Center.
    Artwork from the Sofia Quintero Center.

    “The [French] came in with the idea that they wanted to take Mexico, but the indigenous population won that day,” Ms. Rodriguez-Winter said. The Mexican army was outnumbered and poorly supplied, “but they stood up anyway, and that’s what we should be celebrating: their bravery.”

    Within Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is primarily observed in the state of Puebla, where traditions include military parades, recreations of the Battle of Puebla, parades, mariachi music performances, street festivals and other events. In Toledo, festivities are planned throughout the weekend.

    Here are some of the highlights:

    East Toledo will come alive with colorful folklorico dancers, mariachi music, food and a celebration of culture during its 4th annual Cinco de Mayo Festival. The event, presented by East Side Cantina tonight, will feature live music by Norteño music artist, Michael Salgado, along with Grupo Illusion and MC Paul Urbina. Tickets are $25 and doors open at 7 p.m. On Saturday,the intersection of Oak and Front streets will be filled with food, drinks, vendors, a car show, dancers and a dance contest. Live music will be provided by Los Aztecas, Los Tremblies, Grupo Zplozivo and DJRC. Admission is $10 and free for children age 13 and under. Guests with ticket stubs from the Michael Salgado concert will be admitted for $5. Information: 567-288-9320 or 419-698-7660.

    The Toledo Zoo will celebrate with live entertainment, crafts and other activities from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. The family-friendly event is free with regular zoo admission. Events will take place in the zoo’s main plaza; in case of rain, the activities and performances will move indoors to the zoo’s Museum of Science. The schedule features DJ Tony Rios from 11 a.m. to noon and again from 1 to 2 p.m. The El Corazon de Mexico Folklorico Dance Group will perform from noon to 1 p.m. and again from 2 to 3 p.m. Starting at 1 p.m., kids are invited to take a swing at a piñata filled with treats. Zoo admission is $15 for adults, $12 for children ages 2-11 and seniors age 60 and older. Children under 2 years old are admitted for free. Information:

    Mexican majolica pottery will be on display at La Galeria, 1224 Broadway St. The 16 pieces, including five large murals made from tiles, were painted by contemporary artists who interpreted Cinco de Mayo. The exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday through May 24. Additional works are on display from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Kaspersak Center Lobby of Maumee Valley Country Day School and in the Rare Book Room of the third floor of the main library. The library is open 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

    Bowling Green City Park and Veteran’s Hall in Bowling Green, will host it’s 21st annual celebration in honor of Cinco de Mayo on Saturday. Opening ceremony is at 6 p.m., followed by a piñata for children and live performances. Arts and crafts and vendor booths will be open until 9 p.m. and food from Vivian’s Kitchen will be available until 11 p.m. The free event will also include raffles, drawings and games. DJ Mari will play Tejano music for dancing from 9 p.m. to midnight.

    The Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center and the Andersons have teamed up to host Mexican Consaul, Juan Manuel Solana and professor, Dr. Raul Bringas Nostti, in a special program Monday at the main library. The event begins at 3 p.m. and will feature a Cinco de Mayo presentation on the historical significance of Cinco de Mayo by Mr. Nostti, professor of International Business at the Universidad de las Americas in Puebla, Mexico. There will also be a video on how Mexican art works, displayed at the library, La Galeria and Maumee Valley Country Day School. This event is free. Information:

    Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: or 419-724-6133.