US President Barack Obama kickstarted the festive fervour of Cinco de Mayo, which falls on Saturday, by hosting a reception at the White House in Washington on Thursday.

Dancers from Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Georgetown performed at the reception to mark the 20 years of Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Washington.

Cinco de Mayo, which means fifth of May in Spanish, is celebrated across United States and particularly in Mexico and in the state of Puebla on every 5 May to commemorate the triumph of Mexico over France at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The French returned to capture Mexico City a year later until they were expelled in 1867 by Mexico with US assistance.

Obama took the opportunity to speak about how the Mexican win of 1862 and 1867 further helped strengthen US-Mexico ties over the years.

"When the news of the Mexican victory at Puebla reached this house, this country was in the midst of its own struggles. But soon after, the US lent assistance to help Mexico definitively expel the French from their land. And ever since, the United States and Mexico have lived intersecting and overlapping histories," he said during the reception speech in the Rose Garden at the White House.

He continued: "Our two countries share the ties of history and familia and values and commerce and culture. And today, we are more united than ever -- in friendship and in common purpose."

"Right now, there are more than 50 million Americans of Latino descent - one-sixth of our population. You're our neighbours, our coworkers, our family, our friends. You're starting businesses. You're teaching in classrooms. You're defending this country. You're driving America forward," Obama added.

As the United States and Mexico observe Cinco de Mayo on Saturday this year, below are a few pictures of celebrations that started quite early at the White House. After all, "We just like to get the fiesta started early around here," President Obama joked.

Dancers from Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Georgetown gather to perform at a Cinco de Mayo reception at the White House in Washington, May 3, 2012.REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Dancers from Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Georgetown perform at a Cinco de Mayo reception at the White House in Washington, May 3, 2012.REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Dancers from Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Georgetown perform at a Cinco de Mayo reception at the White House in Washington May 3, 2012.REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Dancers from Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Georgetown wait to perform at a Cinco de Mayo reception at the White House in Washington, May 3, 2012REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Dancers from Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Georgetown gather to perform at a Cinco de Mayo reception at the White House in Washington, May 3, 2012.REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a Cinco de Mayo reception in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, May 3, 2012.REUTERS/Yuri Gripas