Cinco de Mayo may be well known to many for drinking margaritas and feasting on tacos. This day is more than just a day to indulge in Mexican specialties, but a day to celebrate Mexican culture. Today’s celebrations of Cinco de Mayo typically include parades, mariachi music performances, and street festivals. Many people’s idea of Cinco de Mayo is probably completely wrong. This day is more than just a day of great food and drink specials. Let’s take a look into Cinco de Mayo and how this holiday was born.
The Birth of the Cinco de Mayo Holiday
Cinco de Mayo’s true meaning is to commemorate the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France. The day celebrates Mexico’s victory during the Battle of Puebla of the Franco-Mexican War. This war began in response to debts that were owed to the European governments. The country was already in financial ruin when Mexican liberal Benito Juárez became president. Due to the country’s financial status, Juárez was forced to default on the debts. France, Britain, and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew, but France, ruled by Napoleon III did not. Late in 1861, a well-armed French fleet stormed Veracruz, driving President Juárez and his government to retreat. Over 6,000 French troops under General Charles Latrille de Lorencez set out to attack Puebla de Los Angeles. In response, Juárez rounded up a force of 2,000 men and sent them to Puebla.
Led by Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza, the arm fortified the town and prepared for the French assault. On May 5, 1862, Lorencez drew his army to the city of Puebla and led an assault from the north. The battle lasted from daybreak to early evening, and when the French retreated they had lost nearly 500 soldiers with fewer than 100 Mexicans being killed in the war. Zaragoza’s win at Puebla represented a great symbolic victory for the Mexican government and began the resistance movement. After six years, France withdrew thanks in part to military support and political pressure from the United States. This same year, Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, who had been placed as emperor of Mexico by Napoleon, was captured and executed by Juárez’s forces. Puebla de Los Angeles was renamed for General Zaragoza, who died of typhoid fever months after his historic victory.
Cinco de Mayo Today
Today, Cinco de Mayo is not really a major holiday throughout Mexico except for in the state of Puebla. Cinco de Mayo is also not the celebration of Mexican independence as people may think. Today’s celebration of the holiday includes military parades, recreations of the Battle of Puebla and other festive events. You may not have known, but May 5th is also not a federal holiday in Mexico so all businesses operate as normal during the day. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is interpreted as a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage. Some of the largest celebrations are held in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston. The usual celebration will typically include parades, parties, mariachi music, Mexican folk dancing and traditional foods such as tacos and mole poblano.
Check out local websites in your area before heading out find Cinco de Mayo events in your area!