Celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Raleigh is often thought of as a holiday for drinking margaritas and consuming chips and salsa. We celebrate without knowing what Cinco de Mayo is about or why it is celebrated. We will take you back in time for a brief look at the history of how the holiday, Cinco de Mayo came to be. You will also have a glance at some of the beautiful and artistic styles of latin dances that are often danced to on Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo translates to “fifth of May”. It is a common misconception that the fifth of May is a celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day, however Mexico’s independence from Spain had already been achieved 50 years prior in 1810. It is commemorated every 16th of September. Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican Army’s triumph over the French at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. Outnumbered, mostly unarmed, and untrained; the soldiers managed to defeat the French. Six years later and with support from the U.S., Mexico was able to force the withdrawal of France from their land and claim victory. The Battle of Puebla was an inspiration to both the United States and Mexico. The victory became a symbol of perseverance triumphing over insurmountable odds.


Fast forward many decades later, Cinco de mayo is has been thought of as “Mexican St. Patrick’s Day”. The day became a reason to indulge in excessive drinking, eating Mexican food, and dancing. It is celebrated predominantly more in the United States rather than in Mexico. It is not considered a federal holiday in Mexico. Which means that banks, businesses, and government offices remain open.

Latin Dances of Cinco de Mayo

The Mexican culture has brought us many traditional dances. Most of these latin dances intertwined cultural influence from the Spanish, African, Cuban and other cultures. Check out these latin dances that you can learn at our Raleigh dance studio.

The Salsa

Salsa is the Spanish word for “sauce” denoting a “spicy” and “hot” flavor to this popular dance style to a complex mix of many different rhythms. There are indications the term Salsa was coined by radio disc jockeys in Puerto Rico as early as the 1960’s. Later associated with a New York sound developed by Puerto Rican musicians, Salsa is considered the national music and dance of Puerto Rico. The fusion of an Afro-Cuban beat with enhanced jazz textures results in an aggressive high energy pulse which has become popular everywhere. Many of the patterns are closely related to those of the Mambo and Cha-Cha.


The Cha Cha

Cha-cha Dance lessons originated in the 1950s as a slow down Mambo. It is an exciting syncopated, Latin dance which gathers its personality, character, rhythm, basis, and charm from two major dance sources. It derives from the Mambo through its Latin music, and his also a stepchild of the Swing, based on the 1-2-3 step rhythm. The Cha Cha distinct repetitive foot rhythm characterizes his name.


Paso Doble

The Paso Doble, a theatrical Spanish dance, translated as the ‘Double Step’, characterizes that man as the matador and the lady as his cape. The character of the dance is based on the Flamenco dancing. It is arrogant and passionate.


The Mambo

Showing similarities to the rumba and cha-chas complex step pattern, the Mambo which originated in the Caribbean was influenced by the American Swing Orchestras in the 1940’s and 50’s.The peppiest dance of the era was quickly adopted in the New-York city.


The Rumba

The Rumba began as a courtship, marriage, and street dance that originated in Africa. The upper class showed some opposition to the society due to suggestive body and hip movements. What characterizes the dance is taking each step without initially placing the weight on it. It is taken with a slightly bent knee which, when straightened, causes the hips to sway from side to side, in what has come to be known as the Cuban Motion.


The Samba

Birthed in the shantytowns of Rio de Janeiro in 1917, the Samba, also referred to as a Carioca, a Baion or a Batucado, was finally adopted as a ballroom dance by the Brazilian society in 1930. Since the steps in all four dances are very similar, only the tempo differs. This uplifting dance is known for its sensual hip movement based on a 2/4 tempo. Carmen Miranda, the famous Broadway actress, introduced the Samba to the United-States in 1939.


The Bolero

Imported from Spain, the Bolero, being a slower version of the Rumba, is accompanied with Spanish vocals and a subtle percussion effect, usually using Congas or Bongos. Written in a 4/4 time mainly everywhere, except in Cuba where it is in 2/4 time. It is one of the competition dances in American Rhythm Ballroom dance category.


The Merengue

Originated in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the Merengue is a popular dance and is a truly lively Latin Dance. An old tale is being told, about a very brave and famous military officer, who was wounded in battle and developed a limp. A celebration dance was then given for the great hero returning from the war. Not wishing to embarrass their hero who limped on his wounded leg while dancing, all the men present, favored their leg as well, and thus he Merengue was born.



Cinco de Mayo events can be found all throughout Raleigh and the Triangle. With live music, dancing, food and more, Cinco de Mayo festivities are fun for the whole family.


If you would like more information about learning the hottest latin dances, Contact Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Raleigh today.

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