Cinco de Mayo may be boozier than New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day, a survey finds

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With Cinco de Mayo soon approaching, it’s a good time to clear up a few misconceptions about the celebration that for many Americans, includes carnitas, margaritas, and of course, beer and tequila. 

Americans know one thing for sure: the holiday is another reason to drink. What Cinco de Mayo signifies, however, Americans are less certain about. 

Contrary to what over 40% of Americans think, according to a YouGov survey, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day–that’s on September 16. Instead, it commemorates the day of a Mexican victory over France that took place on May 5, 1862.

Second, the holiday is relatively minor in Mexico and isn’t widely celebrated there. Instead, it’s primarily observed in Puebla, the state the battle took place in. 

Third, Cinco de Mayo may be boozier than St. Patrick’s Day and even New Year’s Eve, according to a Numerator survey of more than 5,100 consumers. The survey showed 59% of those celebrating Cinco de Mayo said they planned to purchase alcohol for the day, compared to 53% of respondents who plan to buy alcohol for New Year’s Eve and 44% buying for St. Patrick’s Day. 

To be sure, New Year’s Eve may be more widely celebrated than the other two holidays. But Cinco de Mayo’s emphasis on alcohol comes against the backdrop of business promotions tailored to the celebration and the changing demographic of Americans, which includes a rising Hispanic population.  

The story of Cinco de Mayo, in which an underdog Mexican force defeated a much bigger French contingent, emerged as a powerful symbol of Mexican resistance to oppressors, and gained momentum among Hispanic Americans during the Chicano Movement of the 1970s in Texas and California. 

Since then, beer companies began targeting the holiday as a way to tap into its growing Latino customer base, the Associated Press reported. 

At the start of the 1980s, many breweries were eager to position Cinco de Mayo as a sort of “Mexican St. Patrick’s Day,” according to a Wine Enthusiast report, with brands like Anheuser-Busch and Miller creating their own Hispanic marketing departments and sponsoring Cinco de Mayo events, while Coors spent millions in marketing to Latinx consumers. By 2003, the report states, American beer companies spent over $5 million in Cinco de Mayo advertising, which led to more than 100 million bottles of Corona sold around May 5 of that year. 

The beer industry’s stranglehold has continued: Cinco de Mayo is one of the biggest American holidays for beer sales, Quartz reported, and in 2022, commercial beer sales were 12% higher during the week of Cinco de Mayo than an average week in the year.

America’s changing demographics, which include a rising Hispanic population, also could account for the celebration’s popularity in the country. Today, about 19% of Americans identify as Hispanic or Latinx, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, up from 16% in 2010.   

Today’s celebrations also often involve gathering over sporting events, like pay-per-view boxing matches with famous Mexican or Mexican American boxers and special holiday games from minor league baseball teams in cities across the country.

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