Cinco de Mayo is a popular holiday often mistaken for what is actually being celebrated. Some believe that the holiday celebrates Mexico’s Independence Day, while others seem to think it’s a holiday dedicated to drinking margaritas and eating spicy food. Many people don’t realize that there is a significant amount of history behind the holiday.
Cinco de Mayo literally translates to “the fifth of May” in Spanish. On May 5, 1862, the Mexican army won the Battle of Puebla against the French.
The French were attempting to invade and occupy cities in Mexico as the battle began. Starting with the city of Veracruz, the French marched in, heavily armed with weapons. The unexpected invasion forced Mexico’s president, Benito Juárez, and many other government officials to retreat from the city.
On their way to invade Mexico City, the French army noticed a growing amount of resistance as they passed through the city of Puebla. This resistance eventually led to a battle in which, surprisingly, the 6,000 heavily armed French soldiers were defeated by only 2,000 Mexican soldiers with less weaponry. According to history.com, all of this was possible thanks to the courageous leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza.
The Battle of Puebla represented far more than a successful Mexican military victory. It symbolized unity and a growing patriotism of the Mexican citizens. For this reason, some mistake the holiday as a day for celebrating Mexican independence, much like July 4, 1776, for Americans. However, the achievement was short-lived. A year after the Battle of Puebla, the French were able to conquer Mexico City during their second attempt. Three years later, the American military provided Mexico with assistance and together they were able to remove the French. Five years after the battle, Benito Juárez was able to return to Mexico City and implement a stronger governing system, according to history.com.
When celebrating Cinco de Mayo, it’s important to keep in mind what the holiday recognizes. Some wear green, red, and white to symbolize the Mexican flag, rather than dressing in a way that may seem culturally insensitive. To learn more about Cinco de Mayo, visit this link.