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HISTORY OF CINCO DE MAYO

What is the history Cinco De Mayo? What does it celebrate? Is it really Mexican Independence Day? Today, May 5, is Cinco De Mayo. A day that is celebrated around the world with Mexican themed festivities including Mexican food, culture and music. It is particularly popular amongst Mexican Americans. In fact, it is celebrated more in America than it is in Mexico! It is a common misconception that Cinco De Mayo is Mexican Independence Day. This is not quite right. In fact, Mexican Independence Day is September 16. Despite this, the origins of Cinco De Mayo does have a significant place within Mexican history. History.com describes the origins of the day as follows: “Cinco de Mayo—or the fifth of May—commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). A relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the United States Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations. Cinco de Mayo traditions include parades, mariachi music performances and street festivals in cities and towns across Mexico and the United States.” The origins of Cinco De Mayo date back to the French occupation of Mexico in the latter part of the 1800’s. In 1861, Mexican President Benito Juarez announced that Mexico did not have any money to pay off foreign debts, and issued a moratorium on all debt repayments. In response, France sent a fleet of naval forces to recover the debts owed to them. Landing in Veracruz, the French forces advanced towards Mexico City. As they moved towards Mexico City, the French encountered heavy resistance near Puebla, and the now infamous Battle of Puebla ensued. The poorly equipped Mexican army of 2,000 decisively defeated the ‘premier’ French forces of 6,000, resulting in an unlikely victory for the Mexicans. This was a huge win for the Mexican people, boosting morale during difficult times and creating a symbolic victory for the Mexican government. “The Puebla victory came to symbolize unity and pride for what seemed like a Mexican David defeating a French Goliath,” wrote Time Magazine. Despite this particular victory, the years that followed the battle were filled with turmoil and power struggles between the Mexicans and the French. The French eventually captured Mexico City, and installed Emperor Maximilian I as ruler of Mexico. The Mexicans eventually recaptured Mexico City and, with the support of the United States, drove the French out by 1867, and power was restored to President Benito Juarez. Historically, the Battle of Puebla was significant due to the fact that the ill equipped, relatively primitive Mexican army was able to defeat the French army who were widely considered to be one of the world’s premier forces at that time, under the rule of Napoleon III. Secondly, there has been no European invasion of the America’s since the Battle of Puebla. Today, Cinco De Mayo is a much bigger celebration in the US than Mexico. The day has become a day of pride for Mexican Americans, as a way of honoring their ethnicity. In Mexico, this day is mostly celebrated in Puebla where they call the day El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (The Day of the Battle of Puebla). It is not celebrated as a national holiday in Mexico, even though all schools across the country close on this day. It is an official holiday in the State of Puebla, where the Battle took place, and also a full holiday (no work) in the neighboring state of Veracruz. Either way, we think you should enjoy a margarita and honor this significant day in Mexican history!

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