Cinco de Mayo Celebration

cinco de mayo Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army's defeat over the invading French. The term "Cinco de Mayo" translate to "Fifth of May" which coincides with the day of victory in May 5, 1862.

May 5th is not Mexico's Day of Independence which is celebrated on September 16. The 5th of May has very little political significance but is a perfect excuse to celebrate Mexican heritage and culture. In California, this holiday has been recognized and celebrated since 1863.

And celebrate they do! This Mexican celebration is a wild mix of colors, sounds, smells, tastes, and people who want to have a good time. It's a fiesta!

Cinco De Mayo celebration occurs in Old Town, San Diego. Enter the festival via San Diego Avenue. If you are at the north entrance, get an Events Schedule pamphlet from the Visitor Center (inside the Robinson Rose House).

cinco de mayo

cinco de mayo
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Free Activities

The entire area is decorated with colorful fabrics and icons of Mexico. Punched paper flags (Papel picado) flap in the wind while men and women grace the streets in traditional Mexican attire.

Sponsors from various organizations will set up booths where you can play a game and win a prize (often, kicknack and a 50% off coupon). Try your luck and spin the wheel! How about panning for treasure? A game of horseshoes, anyone?

Food, Drinks, Crafts & Merchandise

The main street, San Diego Ave, is converted to a "Mercado" which means "Market". Here you will find vendors selling everything Mexican (and things non Mexican too). Particularly noteworthy are the colorful dresses, sombreros (big hats), toy guitars, and crafts. See photos

For food, you can duck into one of the many restaurants in Old Town: great food at great prices. Or, be spontaneous and order something from a street vendor. Drinks, Snow Cones, Cotton Candy, Popcorn - hey, why not? It's a party! See photos
cinco de mayo

cinco de mayo
more photos
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Stages and Performances

Activities change year to year but you can expect to find large stages at the north and south entrances to Old Town. Smaller stages are scattered throughout Old Town. For example, there is a stage at the Children's Area designated for puppet shows and other kid friendly events. Check program schedule for exact show times (sample schedule).

Smaller bands perform within restaurants and along storefronts. See photos

There is a reenactment of the the Battle of Puebla - the reason why Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in the first place.

Escaramuzas Golondrinas (female equestrians in fancy clothes) and Mexican Charro (tradition Mexican cowboys) always get a loud applause.

Children's Area

Year after year, the Children's Area is a big success. Here you will find face painting, games, activities, and a stage featuring puppet shows, story reading, acrobats, and dances performed by children. Most, activities here are free, though sometimes a tip is appreciated.

cinco de mayo
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cinco de mayo Location, Parking, Facilities

Cinco de Mayo
Old Town Historic State Park

Hours: festivities usually start at 10 am or 11 am. Most shows finish at 5 or 6 pm. There might be one stage with performances that lead into the night. Stages close, vendors go home, but you are welcome to stay and have dinner or enjoy a beer in one of the Old Town's many restaurants.

Events, food, activities on Friday, Saturday, & Sunday near May 5th

Parking is always a hassle during these special events. You can try street parking along Juan St and Congress St. There are 6 designated parking lots in Old Town, though they are small and fill up quickly. Your best bet is to park at the Transit Lot under highway 5. From here, it's just a short walk to get to the historical state park. See (parking map)

Because of it's popularity, organizers suggest that you take public transportation. The trolley lets you off at Old Town depot.

Bathrooms are located near the Robinson Rose House, in the Plaza del Pasado, and in the Plaza de Munda. For this well attended festival, many porta-potties are installed at the north and south entrances along San Diego Avenue.

cinco de mayo