Celebrate Mexican culture, music and dance and say Viva Mexico with a glass of tequila, it’s Cinco de Mayo! Commemorating a famous Mexican victory over the invading French army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, Cinco de Mayo is observed in Puebla but has taken on even more significance north of the border. Enthusiastically embraced by Mexican and Latino communities throughout the United States, it is a chance for them to celebrate their heritage, something they do with great gusto.
A Little History
In July 1861, Mexican President Benito Juarez issued a moratorium on foreign debt payments for two years as an emergency measure to stabilize the near bankrupt national treasury. En masse, France, Britain and Spain sent gunships to the port of Veracruz to demand their money using the threat of military force.
Artistic representation of the Battle of Puebla
After negotiations, the British and Spanish vessels withdrew but French Emperor Napoleon III ordered the French army to invade Mexico. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the famous victory of a Mexican militia of 4,000 men led by General Ignacio Zaragoza over a larger and better-equipped French force on a battlefield near the city of Puebla in 1862. This was the first time in 50 years that the French army had been defeated in battle!
General Ignacio Zaragoza
Nevertheless, the French returned a year later with 30,000 soldiers and were able to capture Mexico City and declare Maximilian of Hapsburg Emperor of Mexico. Their victory was short-lived however, the Empire lasted only three years. With the aid of the United States, Mexico fought back against the invaders. By 1867, the French army had left Mexico, President Juarez had returned to power and Maximilian was dead.
Not Independence Day, but Still an Excuse to Party!
There are well over 150 official Cinco de Mayo events held in cities throughout the United States and the day is marked with parades, parties, Mexican dances and mariachi performances. So happy Cinco de Mayo! Wherever you are, if you enjoyed the festivities, start preparing for Mexico’s Independence celebrations, they take place on the evening of September 15.