Celebrating Cinco de Mayo


Cinco de Mayo falls on the fifth of May (no surprise there!) and, while it is a widely recognized holiday in Mexico, it’s actually more popular in the United States! The holiday commemorates the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War, which took place on May 5th, 1862. Cinco de Mayo, which honors the Mexicans who defeated the French during the battle, is commonly misperceived as being the Mexican Day of Independence (September 16th).

After the battle, the town of Puebla de Los Angeles was renamed to Puebla de Zaragoza, after the General who led the Mexican forces into battle. Photo from https://www.polarsteps.com/MichaelLafreniere/459099-roadtrip-usa-mexico-2018/4537494-heroica-puebla-de-zaragoza

The entire battled lasted a day, becoming more of a symbolic win than a strategic. The French had about 500 dead from the battle, while the Mexicans had only lost fewer than 100 soldiers. Nestled in the small town of Puebla de Los Angeles, General Charles Latrille de Lorencez of France set out to attack the village with 6,000 troops. The Mexican President, Benito Juáre, very unprepared, assembled a group of 2,000 men, which mostly consisted of mixed ancestry or indigenous Mexicans, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza. Successfully, they fortified Puebla de Los Angeles and awaited the French, who wasted no time in attacking the town.

A short description of the events leading up the Battle of Puebla, which would eventually become known as the esteemed Cinco de Mayo: when Juárez was elected president, Mexico had to renege on debt payments to Europe, which wasn’t particularly happy at all about the predicament. As a result, Britain, Spain, and France dispatched forces to Mexico, in the city of Veracruz, where Spain and Britain were able to negotiate a deal.

On the other hand, France, governed by Napoleon III (no, not the short one), decided to attack Mexico in hopes of creating an empire. In 1861, they drove the Mexican government into retreat at Veracruz.

Traditional Mexican folk dancing on Cinco de Mayo. Photo from https://www.today.com/popculture/cinco-de-mayo-what-it-how-celebrate-t153321

Since the Battle of Puebla, Cinco de Mayo has grown into a more popular celebration of Mexican culture and heritage here in the States. In Mexico, it’s mostly celebrated in Puebla, the scene of the victory, but is still widely regarded throughout the country. Citizens take part in reactants of the Battle and festivals, while enjoying military parades.

During the 1960s, Chicano activists, who advocated for the extension of Mexican-American civil rights, brought more attention to Cinco de Mayo, which, in the decades that followed, would grow into a brilliant and exceptional holiday. Some of the ways Cinco de Mayo is typical celebrated is with native Mexican folk dancing, mariachi music, parties, parades, and traditional foods.

Sources used: https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/cinco-de-mayo