Five ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo at home

Mariachi performers
Mariachi Victoria de Jesus perform at the 26th Fiesta Broadway in downtown Los Angeles 2015.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
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Cinco de Mayo may look different this year — no large parties, please — but the annual Mexican celebration can offer some welcome distraction from the otherwise sluggishly same days of quarantine.

We’ve gathered a list — of five ideas, duh — to inspire your plans.

1. Support your local Mexican restaurant. Obviously.

Although 2020 may not seem to have a whole lot going for it, this year is one of those rare occurrences when Cinco de Mayo falls on Taco Tuesday.

Although most businesses are closed, chances are your favorite local spot for tacos, tamales or taquitos is still open. If it’s not, branch out and try one of the 20 Mexican restaurants offering delivery or takeout to which our restaurant critic Bill Addison gave his stamp of approval.


Cinco de Mayo is usually a boon for locally owned Mexican restaurants, and those that are still open could use the boost in revenue.

If you do go out to pick up food, don’t forget to wear a mask — you can buy one from these quinceañera dressmakers who are out of work.

If you feel safer at home, there are plenty of delicious Mexican dishes you can make in your own kitchen.

2. Read up on the Battle of Puebla.

No, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. That’s in September.

But it is a popularly celebrated Mexican holiday — just mostly outside of Mexico. It commemorates the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, when the Mexican military trounced a French army at Puebla, the city the French were traveling through to reach Mexico City with plans to establish a satellite state. Although the French returned in full force the following year, the 1862 triumph marked a decisive victory for the Mexican military at the time.

The United States’ celebrations of the historic victory really took off in the mid 20th century, probably when alcohol companies began using it in promotions. Puebla is one of the few places in Mexico that still highlights the holiday, usually putting on a 19th century battle reenactment and a parade across the city.

While you’re researching, consider marking your calendar for Sept. 16 — the real Mexican Independence Day.

3. Take a Spanish lesson.

If you’ve been twiddling your thumbs, you might as well put them to good use while your tongue gets twisted learning a new language.


Duolingo’s language courses are free, but several other platforms, including Babbel and Rosetta Stone, offer interactive games and lessons.

You could also join the free language-exchange websites Conversation Exchange or My Language Exchange and practice your Spanish with native speakers who might teach you about the history of Cinco de Mayo via email, chat or Skype.

4. Support mariachis.

Whatever you decide to do, tune into some mariachi music while you’re doing it. The coronavirus decimated events where mariachi musicians would typically play, cutting off their source of income and inspiring some to play at Mariachi Plaza last month, asking Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti for more economic support.

To honor the work of its musicians, the Mariachi Heritage Foundation, along with salsa maker Chi-Chi’s, is putting on a daylong virtual mariachi festival it’s calling “Singo de Mayo.”

Private 30-minute mariachi sessions filled up fast, so tune in to the live happy hour concert Tuesday evening.

Mariachis play love songs at wedding receptions, songs about Mexico at festivals; they sing birthday songs and morning serenades. They subsist on joy, but they also experience sadness. Then came the novel coronavirus, which choked off almost every source of revenue.

April 18, 2020

5. Donate to cultural centers.

Museums, art galleries and cultural centers are struggling, and even small donations may help keep them alive until their doors reopen. There are several worthy recipients of your Cinco de Mayo dollars in California — such as the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach or the Mexican Cultural Center of Northern California.

Whichever institution you choose, take a moment while you’re on their website to visit some online exhibitions.