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Cinco De Mayo: A Celebration of Mexican Heritage

Cinco de Mayo decorations

The holiday Cinco De Mayo, translated to English as the Fifth of May, has a rich and dynamic history in the United States as a celebration of Mexican culture, heritage, and the empowerment of oppressed peoples.

In 1862, Mexico was under French occupation and America was in the midst of the Civil War. California had recently become part of the Union and the Hispanic population there was growing increasingly concerned about the Confederacy’s attempts to gain ground out West as well as potentially allying with France. On May 5th in what is now known as the Battle of Puebla, a group of Mexican soldiers beat 6,000 French troops in a victory that would become a symbolic rallying cry for freedom for both the Mexican resistance and for Mexican-Americans.

The first Cinco De Mayo gathering to celebrate this victory that was recorded in the U.S. happened in California. The continued remembrance and celebration of the holiday is largely due to the efforts of the juntas patrióticas mexicanas (Mexican patriotic assemblies), a Hispanic led “network of community-based organizations that encouraged Latinos in the American West to support the defense of freedom and democracy in both the United States and Mexico.” At the event, both the Mexican and the American flags were flown, a symbol celebrating the unity between two cultures.

Celebrating dual cultures is something that is deeply personal to New American Funding CEO and Co-Founder Patty Arvielo. The daughter of a Mexican immigrant and white Iowa “farm boy,” she’s spent her life embodying two worlds. As a child, she grew up playing in the dirt streets of Tijuana where her mother was from. She would spend the weekends with her grandmother then come back to California during the week.

When her mother, Carmen, first immigrated and moved to Los Angeles when she was 18 years old, she had no way of knowing what her future would hold. She struggled at first to find work and was nearly denied housing based on her status as a Mexican immigrant. However, she continued to persevere and eventually became the owner of her own small business and she and her husband were able to buy a house to raise their own family in.

Now, Patty is the successful founder and CEO of the largest Hispanic-owned and woman-owned mortgage lender in the U.S. In the years since that first victory at Puebla and following celebrations, the social dynamics of Latinos in America have shifted with the times. But the core values of the Hispanic community have endured. Hard work, communal support, and leading with the heart are values that Patty learned from her mother and that she continues to embody and spread today.

As one of the top lenders to Hispanic and Black communities, NAF continues the work of supporting underserved communities and empowering marginalized peoples by providing them with the spaces and resources they need to grow and succeed.

As the years have passed, the celebration of Cinco De Mayo has continued to be shaped by the changes in the Latino community, each generation leaving its mark on both the holiday and America itself. However, the vibrant spirit of Latino pride, solidarity, and the fight for a better future continue to be at the heart of the Hispanic community.


The Latino Focus Initiative is our resource for Hispanic homebuyers. Started in 2013, it is a 50+ member strong team whose goal is to identify and address the specific challenges faced by the Latino community when it comes to buying a home.  

The New American Dream Initiative is our resource for Black homebuyers. It was designed to promote racial equity and provide the Black community with the resources and opportunities needed to bridge the racial wealth gap.  


KCET – How Cinco De Mayo Got Its Start Because of California’s Mexican Americans

El Cinco De Mayo an American Tradition by David E. Hayes-Bautista – Professor at UCLA

Office of the Historian – French Intervention in Mexico and the American Civil War

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