Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayois not Mexico's independence day. Mexican independence is celebrated Sept.16.
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely victory over the French forces of Napoleon III on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla.
Mexico had trouble paying back war debts to European countries, and France had come to Mexico to collect that debt.
Today, Cinco de Mayo has become more of an American holiday than a Mexican one. But most non-Mexican Americans have "no idea" about the day's history, said Carlos Tortolero, president of the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago.
"If you went to any bar tonight and said 'What's this day about?', they would be clueless, and you can't blame the alcohol consumption either," Tortolero told USA TODAY Network.
For Tortolero, Cinco de Mayo is a reminder of how many times Mexico has been invaded by other countries.
"This one day, Mexico won the battle," he said.