Mariachi music is one of the most familiar symbols of Mexican and Mexican-American culture. Mariachi bands may have as many as 20 members, mostly on stringed instruments and trumpets.

Photograph by Elidealista, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

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    On May 5, 1863, Americans first celebrated Cinco de Mayo. The holiday marks the 1862 Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla, Mexico.
    Cinco de Mayo is not a major Mexican holiday. (Mexico’s independence day is September 16.) Instead, it is a tribute to Mexican-American identity and heritage. The early celebrations focused on freedom and democracy—ideas relevant not only to French occupation in Mexico, but the Civil War then raging in the United States.
    Today, communities celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Mexican-American parades, dance, music, and food. The holiday also brings attention to the historic contributions Chicanos and other Latinos have made to American culture and society.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    celebrate Verb

    to observe or mark an important event with public and private ceremonies or festivities.

    Chicano Noun


    Civil War Noun

    (1860-1865) American conflict between the Union (north) and Confederacy (south).

    culture Noun

    learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

    democracy Noun

    system of organization or government where the people decide policies or elect representatives to do so.

    heritage Noun

    cultural or family background.

    holiday Noun

    period of celebration or honor.

    identity Noun

    how a person defines themselves, or how others define them.

    mariachi Adjective

    genre of traditional Mexican music featuring a variety of stringed instruments (such as violin, guitar, and guitarron), trumpet, and strong voices.

    participate Verb

    to take part in an activity.

    relevant Adjective

    directly having to do with something or someone.

    society Noun

    large community, linked through similarities or relationships.

    tribute Noun

    recommendation or compliment given in gratitude.