All the Spanish Vocabulary Any Cinco de Mayo Party-goer Needs to Know
Cinco de Mayo, America’s favorite yet most misunderstood Mexican holiday, is right around the corner.
Many people confuse Cinco de Mayo with Grito de Dolores, Mexico’s Independence Day which is celebrated on September 16th.
Cinco de Mayo marks the celebration of the Battle of Puebla which took place on the 5th of May in 1862. Although it is a celebration of Mexican patriotism and pride, it is actually more widely celebrated in the United States than in Mexico.
Before you break out your sombreros and margaritas for this year’s celebration, take some time to familiarize yourself with some holiday Spanish lingo.
Why Learn Cinco de Mayo Vocabulary?
You are probably asking yourself, “Why on earth do I need to learn vocabulary to drink margaritas, eat yummy Mexican food and listen to mariachi bands?” Sure, you don’t need any Spanish vocab to sit back and passively enjoy the festivities, but there are many reasons to brush up on your Cinco de Mayo vocabulary before the celebration starts.
First of all, as a Spanish language learner, it is important to take advantage of any and all fun opportunities to use the language and improve your speaking skills outside of a classroom environment. What better time to practice your conversation skills than a Cinco de Mayo fiesta? The vocabulary will give you something to chat about and the margaritas can provide you some liquid courage to actually start speaking!
Secondly, learning holiday vocabulary can help improve your overall understanding of Mexican history and culture. In order to truly master a language, you need a good grasp on the culture upon which it stands. The more you can learn about Hispanic culture, the better your Spanish will be.
Last but not least, communicating and showing interest in the culture at a Cinco de Mayo event will help you show your host that you appreciate their hospitality and that you are genuinely interested in their cultural background. Remember, while the fiesta may be loads of fun, it is more than just a party, it is a celebration of historical victories and cultural heritage.
Tools for Learning More About Cinco de Mayo
Fortunately, there are many resources available that make learning Cinco de Mayo vocabulary both easy and fun. Here are some great resources to check out to enhance your learning:
The Leaf Project (Language Education Access Foundation) provides an online written description on the history of Cinco de Mayo, as well as a vocabulary list and a series of videos on the history and traditions of the holiday.
The History Channel offers a printable online study guide, curriculum and activities for Cinco de Mayo learning on their website.
MyVocabulary.com provides interactive puzzles containing Cinco de Mayo vocabulary designed to make learning fun.
Whitehouse.gov has an archived video of President Obama’s Cinco de Mayo celebrations at the White House, a great watch for those interested in how the holiday is commemorated in the United States.
40 Lively Spanish Vocabulary Words for Celebrating the Real Cinco de Mayo
La comida (Food)
While many people may already be familiar with traditional Mexican foods, in case you haven’t had the pleasure of eating tamales or drinking a margarita, here is a little bit of vocabulary concerning traditional Mexican cuisine that you will probably find at your next Cinco de Mayo fiesta:
1. Burrito — A popular Mexican dish consisting of a tortilla rolled around a relleno (filling) of carne (meat), frijoles (beans), queso (cheese) and other vegetables.
2. Taco — A zesty Mexican food consisting of tortilla (usually fried) rolled around or stuffed with filling of carne, queso, lechuga (lettuce,) and a smattering of other things, depending on the cook.
3. Tortilla — Thin, round and unleavened pan (bread) prepared with harina de maíz (cornmeal) or harina (wheat flour) typically served hot with toppings or fillings.
4. Nacho — A tortilla chip typically served with dipping sauce (salsa, queso, guacamole) or topped with carne, queso and all the same roster of traditional ingredients.
5. Enchilada — A tortilla made of maíz (corn), rolled and filled with a mixture of simple, traditional ingredients (carne, frijoles, queso) and covered in a chili pepper sauce referred to as salsa de enchilada (enchilada sauce).
6. Tamal — A traditional Mexican plato fuerte (main course) consisting of seasoned carne and/or frijoles wrapped in dough made from harina de maíz and baked or steamed in corn husks.
7. Guacamole — Mashed or pureed aguacate (avocado) mixture with tomates (tomatoes), cebollas (onions), culantro (cilantro), pimientos (peppers) and various seasonings, usually served as a dip or topping.
8. Salsa — A spicy sauce/dip mixture made with tomates, cebollas, pimientos and culantro.
9. Tequila — A strong Mexican liquor made from agave azul (blue agave).
10. Cerveza — Beer
11. Margarita — A cóctel (cocktail beverage) made with tequila, el triple seco (triple sec), lima (lime) or limón (lemon juice), and served in a glass topped with sal (salt). Just keep in mind that many people refer to both lime and lemon as limón!
Even if you already knew these words, at least now you can practice naming their ingredients in Spanish and pronouncing them like a native!
La historia (History)
Show off your smarts at the next party by discussing the history of Cinco de Mayo using these vocabulary words:
12. La batalla — Battle
13. La guerra — War
14. La bandera — Flag
15. Rojo(a) — Red (one of the three colors of the Mexican flag)
16. Blanco(a) — White (one of the three colors of the Mexican flag)
17. Verde — Green (one of the three colors of the Mexican flag)
18. Cinco — Five (fifth). This is the start of a little breakdown of the holiday’s name, in case you are wondering about these words. Many Latin American holidays are called by their dates (much like the 4th of July is in the United States).
19. De — Of
20. Mayo — May
21. Mil ochocientos sesenta y dos — 1862, which was the year of the Battle of Puebla. Being able to say it in Spanish could impress your friends at your Cinco de Mayo fiesta!
22. Puebla — The city in Mexico where the 1862 battle took place.
23. El Día de la Batalla de Puebla — The day of the Battle of Puebla.
24. El soldado — Soldier
25. Día de la Independencia — Independence Day. People often confuse Cinco de Mayo with Mexican Independence Day, which is actually celebrated on September 16th.
La fiesta (Party)
It wouldn’t be a party without party lingo. Here are some vocabulary words that may come in handy at la fiesta:
26. La celebración — Celebration
27. La fiesta — Party
28. Baile folklórico — Folkloric dance
29. La música — Music
30. Charro — Traditional Mexican dress or suit, often worn by Mariachi bands.
31. Mariachi — A Mexican folk band of at least five musicians who typically dress in charro suits and play guitar, trumpet, violin and vihuela.
32. Maracas — Mexican rattles that make noise when shaken.
33. Piñata — A paper mache decoration filled with candy and hit with a stick to break open.
34. Matraca — Wooden Mexican noisemaker instrument.
35. Sombrero — Traditional Mexican hat.
36. Soldaderas — Military women of the Mexican revolution, typically represented in Cinco de Mayo parades by women wearing skirts and flowery hats.
37. Fuegos artificiales — Fireworks
38. Amigo(a) — Friend
39. Bueno(a) — Good
40. Gracias — Thank you. Because any time you attend a fiesta, you will want to be able to express your gratitude to the host.
There you have it. You’ve just learned more than 40 Cinco de Mayo vocabulary words for your upcoming fiesta.
Enjoy the festivities and don’t be afraid to speak up and use these words when you have a chance.
The more you practice, the better your Spanish will be. So don’t miss out on an opportunity to talk about las batallas and las guerras over margaritas and nachos while wearing charros and sombreros.
¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo, amigos!