Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that is celebrated on May 5th every year, primarily in Mexico and the United States. The holiday commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.
In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is mainly observed in the state of Puebla, where the battle took place, and is typically celebrated with parades, reenactments of the battle, and speeches. In the United States, however, the holiday has taken on a more general celebration of Mexican culture, and is often marked with parties, music, and traditional Mexican food and drinks.
It’s important to note that Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day, which is actually celebrated on September 16th.
The story behind Cinco de Mayo begins with the political and economic instability that Mexico experienced in the mid-19th century. In 1861, Mexico was in a state of financial ruin and President Benito Juarez declared a temporary moratorium on the repayment of foreign debts, which had been incurred by the previous Mexican government.
This decision angered several European powers, who demanded that Mexico repay its debts immediately. France, under the leadership of Emperor Napoleon III, decided to take advantage of the situation and sent a large army to invade Mexico in late 1861.
The French army was initially successful and captured several major cities, including Veracruz. However, on May 5th, 1862, a small Mexican army, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, defeated a much larger French force in the city of Puebla. The victory was a significant morale boost for the Mexican people and became a symbol of resistance against foreign aggression.
Despite the Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla, the French ultimately captured Mexico City and installed Maximilian I, a member of the Austrian royal family, as the new Emperor of Mexico. However, the French occupation was short-lived and ended in 1867 when Mexican forces, aided by the United States, defeated the French army and captured Maximilian I.
Cinco de Mayo remained a relatively minor holiday in Mexico for many years, but it gained popularity in the United States in the 20th century, particularly among Mexican-Americans. Today, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in many parts of the United States with parades, festivals, and parties that showcase Mexican culture and heritage.