Over the years across the United States, Cinco de Mayo has become more of a widely accepted tradition along with the festive parties held that day. But, the day-long celebration is actually part of Mexico's rich and storied history.
While not an official holiday in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo marks the Mexican army's defeat of invading French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.
The defeat was significant for many reasons, but none more so than the Mexican army, severely outnumbered, turning back a massive French army that hadn't seen defeat for half a century.
That defeat marked the beginning of a day that is almost universally celebrated across America, taking on the same kind of connotations as other cultural celebrations like Oktoberfest and St. Patrick's Day.
The importance and size of Cinco de Mayo have have grown exponentially over the years, coming to represent not only the storied Mexican history, but the opportunity of people from all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds that chance to gather, have a good time and meet new friends.
This year's Cinco de Mayo celebration in Cape Coral - co-sponsored by the city of Cape Coral Special Events Division and the Southwest Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce - will feature everything people have come to know and love about past celebrations, along with a couple of new surprises.
What: 2009 Cinco de Mayo celebration
Where: Southeast 47th Terrace, downtown Cape Coral
When: Saturday, May 2, 5-10 p.m.
Information: 573-3125 or 418-1441
This free event takes place along Southeast 47th Terrace in downtown Cape Coral between Vincennes Boulevard and Coronado Parkway on Saturday, May 2, from 5 - 10 p.m.
This event - now a major city happening - has had its share of bumps along the way to become a favorite among Cape and all Southwest Florida residents.
Last year, for instance, the event nearly didn't happen because of the lack of sponsorship. Former Twisted Conch owner Dave Chafin, along with several other business owners along Southeast 47th Terrace, raised $7,000 to make sure the celebration will take place.
This year the event won't face those types of hurdles. The Southwest Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce stepped up to the plate to ensure there were no unwelcome surprises.
"This is our first time sponsoring the event," said Veronica Culbertson, chamber board president. "We used to organize Viva Fort Myers, so we have some idea of how to do these festivals."
Culbertson said one of the advantages of the Hispanic Chamber organizing the event is its long and extensive list of contacts. With no shortage of sponsors this year - including Embarq, SunTrust, Jetblue Airways, BJ's Wholesale Club, Univision, Telemundo and FOX4 - the chamber was able to insure the celebration would be a success.
It was so successful, in fact, Culbertson said if the chamber had started working earlier the sponsor list would have been even longer.
"We have great companies on this," she said. "We took this on in February, but if we had more time we could have had more sponsors. That's why we came on board, because we had the contacts."
While last year's event drew thousands to downtown Cape Coral along the Southeast 47th Terrace corridor, Culbertson said the chamber, and the city, are hoping to draw more people of Hispanic and Latin descent.
"It's been a great event, it's been very successful," she added. "But people wanted a little more Hispanic participation. We want the whole community to come out have a good time, but we also wanted to raise the Hispanic population because it's been low."
New this year is a "Chips and Salsa Contest" which will be judged by the public.
Ten local restaurants will be competing in this contest to see who has the best tasting chips and salsa. One of the judges, which could very well be you or someone you know, will earn two round-trip tickets from Jet Blue airways.
Also new this year is the entertainment. Representing the Latin flavor will be Universal Music Latino recording artist Valerie Morales, along with mariachis, folkloric dancers and a fashion show.
Replacing the River Blues band from last year, nationally recognized group Wildfire will be playing rock 'n' roll to get the people dancing.
Then, of course, there will be enormous amounts of food, including traditional fare like pizza and burgers, plus an all the Latin food you desire. And don't forget the adult beverages, including beer and margaritas. Plus there's a kids' area to help entertain all the little ones.
Whatever you're looking for, more than likely you will be able to find it at the 2009 Cinco de Mayo Festival.
As Culbertson said, "We really want the whole community to be there. It's going to be a whole lot of fun. We really hope everyone will come down."