Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for the 5th of May) marks the 1862 victory of the Mexican army over French troops at the Battle of Puebla. It has become a popular cultural holiday in the Southwest, even surpassing its importance in Mexico. The first thing one needs to learn about Cinco de Mayo is that it is not a celebration of Mexican independence. Mexican Independence Day (September 16) commemorates the start of the Mexican revolt against Spain in 1810.
For me, the best part of celebrating Cinco de Mayo is the food! AllRecipes' Cinco de Mayo special includes a short history of the holiday (Viva Cinco de Mayo!), an introduction to salsa, the history of chocolate (Aztecs created a hot chocolate drink in 1500 BC), an overview of Mexican cuisine, and, of course, recipes. Links to margarita recipes might make the site inappropriate for some audiences.
A pinata is a candy-filled container suspended on a rope. Blindfolded kids hit it with a bat until the all the candy spills on the floor. Whether or not pinatas are readily available near you depends on where you live. But these instructions for making a star-shaped pinata from scratch double the amount of fun. First everyone can help make the pinata (it's a messy paper mach project) and then the kids can whack it till it bursts.
This one-page article explains how Mexico struggled in its early years of independence. After years of economic woes, the "French invaded Mexico, and with the help of the Mexican Conservative party, Louis Napoleon imposed Maximilian of Hapsburg as Mexico's emperor in 1864." The story has many twists and turns, and is an exciting one to read. Other Mexican holidays (including Day of the Dead and Valentine's Day) are covered in Cultural Articles.
"The Constitution calls our country the United Mexican States because it consists of thirty-one states and the Federal District, which have joined together to form a federation." Created by the office of the Presidency of the Republic of Mexico, this site introduces Mexican history, government, geography and holidays such as Cinco de Mayo and Independence Day. There are also games, e-cards, myths and stories.
MEXOnline is my pick of the day site for Cinco de Mayo history. It is illustrated with a map showing the town of Puebla, a picture of Maximilian (the Archduke of Austria), and the hero of Cinco de Mayo, General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin. "The battle at Puebla in 1862 happened at a violent and chaotic time in Mexico's history. Mexico had finally gained independence from Spain in 1821 after a difficult and bloody struggle, and a number of internal political takeovers and wars, including the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and the Mexican Civil War of 1858, had ruined the national economy."