Cinco de Mayo occurs each year on May 5th as a celebration of Mexico’s victory over the Second French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. While it was not the final battle of their war of independence from French occupation, it signaled a turning point for the liberal party, proving it could be won.
Over the years, the holiday has become more important inside of the US than it is inside of Mexico, becoming synonymous with Mexican-American culture. While some think it’s an Independence Day celebration, they would be mistaken. But regardless of the reason, it’s one of the most fun holidays of the year. In this article, we’ll go over the 15 songs that are perfect to help you celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
1. La Bamba – Ritchie Valens
La Bamba is a traditional Mexican folk song, originating from the state of Veracruz. A very old track, the best-known version was recorded by Ritchie Valens in 1958. Numerous other artists would pick it up throughout the years, including Los Lobos, but it was his version that became a Top 40 hit in the US, an almost unheard-of feat for the time.
Not only was it included on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, but it has also been included in the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.
2. Oye Como Va – Santana
Oye Como Va originated as a cha-cha-cha by Tito Puentes but became synonymous with Latin-American culture inside the US when the rock band Santana recorded their version of it in 1970. That version became a solid hit in the US, rising to number 13 on the Hot 100 and 11 on the Easy Listening Chart.
Cinco de Mayo has become a multicultural celebration, and this song is an amazing representation of multiculturalism in the US and its Latin roots are perfect for the holiday. In 2002, their version of the track had been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and Latin Grammy Hall of Fame.
3. Tequila – The Champs
Tequila is a fun little party song that everyone can sing along with. The Latin-inspired music is upbeat and festive, and the only actual words in the track are repeating the word “Tequila” several times. It’s not particularly the traditional song that our first two entries are, but it remains a decent little tune to throw on for your Cinco de Mayo drinking needs.
4. El Rey – Vicente Fernández
El Rey was first recorded in 1971 by Jose Alfredo Jimenez. His original version is one of his best-known songs and eventually was inducted into the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame. Though he would pass shortly after the release of the song, it took the number-one spot on the Mexican charts in 1974. Numerous notable artists have covered the track, as it’s a classic Mexican song. One of the very best came from the prestigious Vicente Fernández, with his version going on to become the most well-known version of the track.
5. La Vida es un Carnaval – Celia Cruz
When you think of Cinco de Mayo and the perfect songs for the holiday, you’re going to want to play a lot of Spanish-language tracks. You’re also going to want to include some classic and amazing salsa numbers to keep the party going and guests on the dance floor. Few songs serve this role better than Celia Cruz singing La Vida Es Un Carnaval.
6. Amor a la Mexicana – Thalia
Amor A La Mexicana was the title track for legendary singer Thalia’s fifth studio album. It eventually turned into one of the most important classic Mexican pop songs and a signature track for her career. If you want some authentic Mexican pop music for your Cinco de Mayo celebration, you can’t go wrong with playing this song, nor most of her music in general. There are three different versions of the track, mixes made for another album and its European release, so there are several options to choose from.
7. Bidi Bidi Bom Bom – Selena
Another one of the biggest names in Mexican and Latin pop music is undeniably Selena. One of her biggest hit singles was Bidi Bidi Bom Bom, and it’s another awesome addition to a Cinco de Mayo playlist.
It spent four weeks on top of the US Hot Latin Songs Chart and was a big part of the introduction of Tejano and Latin pop music to mainstream audiences in the US as a whole. It remains a lock for any list of the best Texas songs of all time and is another great representation of US-Mexican cultural blending, just like the Cinco de Mayo holiday.
8. Parrandera, Rebelde y Atrevida – Jenni Rivera
Jenni Rivera is an amazing artist who received a lot of criticism in her career because she played traditional banda music, a genre mainly dominated by male artists. She became one of the best-selling Mexican-American artists of all time thanks to sticking it out and producing incredible cultural music. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2012. Her song Parrandera, Rebelde Y Atrevida is a freeing and liberating single with plenty of energy to help you celebrate the fiery passion of the Cinco de Mayo holiday.
9. Clavado en un Bar – Maná
The way everyone celebrates Cinco de Mayo is to drink as much as possible, preferably imported beers and tequila. So, what’s a better way to help you celebrate the holiday than a song about being stuck in a bar? This might be a bit of a heartbreak track, but it’s absolutely a great drinking song if you aren’t feeling the greatest but still want to celebrate.
Maná released it as the lead single of their fifth studio album in 1997, scoring a top 10 hit on the Latin Songs and Latin Pop Airplay charts. It was later covered by Jose Alberto for his own album, with that version reaching number 10 on the Tropical Airplay chart.
10. El Noa Noa – Juan Gabriel
The whole point of Cinco de Mayo is that it’s a big party, so party anthem bangers are going to be a go-to style of song for the occasion. It’s hard to do better than throwing on some Juan Gabriel to help you celebrate Cinco de Mayo, and El Noa Noa is one of the best party anthems you’re going to be able to find.
11. Bailando – Enrique Iglesias Feat. Sean Paul, Descemer Bueno, And Gente De Zona
Bailando was a huge hit on the Latin charts, spending a total of 41 weeks in the number-one spot on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart. It’s got a great rhythm that makes it the perfect party track, but it has a sensual undercurrent that also makes it a solid option for a more relaxed atmosphere. He released it as part of his 10th solo album Sex And Love in 2014.
12. Gasolina – Daddy Yankee
Gasolina is an oldie but a goodie at this point. A huge hit when it came out in 2004 as the lead single for Daddy Yankee’s album Nice Hood, it became the first reggaeton song in history to be nominated for the Latin Grammy Award for Record of the Year. It’s generally considered one of the greatest Latin songs of all time, even being selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in their National Recording Registry.
13. El Último Adiós – Paulina Rubio
El Último Adiós might be a bit of a breakup song, but this hip hop ranchera single is still one of the best tracks for Cinco de Mayo. It was a highlight of Paulina Rubio’s incredible career, serving as the second single from her fifth studio album in 2000. A big combination of Latin pop, hip hop, and regional Mexican styles, it’s a culturally relevant song that fits exactly the type of theme you want for your next Cinco de Mayo holiday party.
14. Despacito – Luis Fonsi Feat. Daddy Yankee
Before Justin Bieber got his hands on it and turned it into a nationwide hit single, Despacito was already a major song in the Latin markets. The original reggaeton track served as the lead single for Fonsi’s 2019 album Vida and is largely credited for renewing the mainstream interest in Spanish-language music. It earned a ridiculous number of awards and accolades, but after topping charts in 47 countries worldwide, it’s proven as a great song for celebrating Cinco de Mayo.
15. México en la Piel – Luis Miguel
México En La Piel is a song with plenty of versions out there to choose from. It’s largely considered a Mexican standard, which is why it was included in and used as the title track for Luis Miguel’s collection of Mexican standards in one of his own albums. The song was made in 1990 by Jose Manuel Fernandez Espinosa, who won a prize at the Festival Mexico Lindo Y Querido for it.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.