Cinco de Mayo Activities for Spanish Class
Inside: A round-up of Cinco de Mayo activities for the Spanish classroom.
Cinco de Mayo is a weird day if you’re a Spanish teacher. On the one hand, you might recoil at the mass production of stereotypes: sombreros, margaritas, and moustaches will undoubtedly abound May 5th. This is what you get when you type “Cinco de Mayo” into Amazon:
On the other, hand, there’s huge interest in the day in general. It’s a great chance to bust common myths and stereotypes, and guide your students to authentic Mexican culture. You can make sure your students understand it’s not Mexico’s independence day (that’s September 16), and teach some of real history behind the day.
The explanation as to why Cinco de Mayo is celebrated so widely in the U.S. is a bit muddied. Some speculate the reasons go back to California during the war with France, the Chicano Power movement in the 60’s, or beer companies that hijacked the holiday in the 80’s. In some places, Latinos are proactively planning events and naming it “Semana de la Raza.”
While the holiday may not be a big deal in Mexico–outside of Puebla, maybe– I think it makes sense to acknowledge the day within U.S. classrooms. Many Mexicans here have taken up the custom of celebrating Cinco de Mayo as a chance to celebrate their heritage and home country, with large festivals in states like Texas.
Whatever you end up doing, I have collected a ton of resources so you can celebrate or include Cinco de Mayo activities authentically in your Spanish classroom.
If you’re unsure of the history behind the day or why we should tread with caution, I recommend reading these articles:
Why I Celebrate Cinco de Mayo from Fun for Spanish Teachers
Cinco de Mayo Activities & Resources
Consider reading some stories that celebrate Mexican culture. Learn about Frida Kahlo:
Frida Kahlo: The Artist who Painted Herself
Or tell a Mexican folktale:
The Lizard and the Sun / La Lagartija y el Sol
Ideas for the Classroom
- Learn about La Batalla de Puebla. I’ve gathered lots of videos, infographs, and links. Remember that the history of the Battle is complicated (as history always is).
- Choose to highlight authentic Mexican culture in general. If you do this, you can study how Cinco de Mayo was latched onto by Chicano activists in the 60’s, and has become a time to celebrate Mexican heritage (or even Latino in general). Below you’ll find links for culture-rich crafts, art, music, and activities.
- If you have a Spanish club, you could make goodie baskets and deliver them to local Mexican restaurants for the employees (who are about to be inundated). This could be a cute wrap-up to a study of misconceptions about Cinco de Mayo, and how it has evolved in the U.S. (I saw this idea in a FB group!)
- Compare/contrast St. Patrick’s Day with Cinco de Mayo and how the two holidays interact with immigration, pride in one’s roots and history, and commercialization.
- Study and discuss the evolution of Mexican food in the U.S., and find examples of authentic dishes. If you live in an area with food trucks that offer authentic food, bring one to school for an in-school Spanish class field trip.
1901 poster for Cinco de Mayo by Jose Guadalupe Posada. Credit: WikiCommons
Charge of the Mexican Cavalry at the Battle of Puebla by Mike Manning. Credit: Wiki Commons
Credit: NOTiMEX, Monografía Estatal: Secretaria de Educación Pública Gobierno del Estado de Puebla, Diseño: Juan Hernández López
Credit: Noticias Mundo Fox
Cinco de Mayo Activities
Free mini-book about Mexico from Fun for Spanish Teachers
8 Kid-Friendly Cinco de Mayo Activities from Kid World Citizen
If you need a craft but want to get beyond sombreros and tacos, consider one of these activities:
Folk Art: Amate Painting from Kid World Citizen
Learn about Frida Kahlo and do self-portraits from Kid World Citizen
Learn about the Mexican Flag from Kid World Citizen
Here are some free lesson aids and printables:
10 Misconceptions about Spanish Language and its Speakers PPT from Spanish Plans
Cinco de Mayo Jigsaw Puzzle from The Comprehensible Classroom (reviews history and facts)
Cinco de Mayo Jigsaw Puzzle freebie from TpT
If you are looking to purchase lesson plans, I recommend this pack from The Comprehensible Classroom:
May is the perfect month to highlight some authentic Mexican songs. While the rest of the U.S is eating chips and salsa (and thinking they’re celebrating Mexico’s independence), your students can highlight rich Mexican music with deep cultural roots. There are a TON of good songs; here are a few classics I love.
Los Caminos de la Vida
Mexico Lindo y Querido
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