Today is Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May. The holiday began in Mexico but today it is also celebrated in the United States. In fact, the U.S. celebrations are much bigger than the ones in Mexico.
Cinco de Mayo: Mexico
Cinco de Mayo is the day of Mexico’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla. This battle was part of the Franco-Mexican War.
In 1861, the country was losing money. During this time, Benito Juarez was elected president. He felt he could not pay the country’s debts owed to European governments. Britain, France, and Spain sent naval forces to demand Mexico pay the money. Britain and Spain made deals with Mexico, but France decided to take some Mexican territory instead.
Around 6,000 French troops set out to attack the small town of Puebla de Los Angeles. Juarez was able to gather just 2,000 men. The Mexicans fortified the town as much as they could to prepare for the much larger French army. The battle lasted from sunup to early evening, but the Mexican troops were victorious, sending the French to retreat.
Known as the Battle of Puebla Day in Mexico, celebrations are small and observed mostly in Puebla. Traditional events include military parades and re-enactments of the battle.
Cinco de Mayo: U.S.
In the 1960s, Chicano activists started campaigns to bring awareness to Cinco de Mayo. Today, the holiday celebrates Mexican culture and heritage. It is a day for parades, gatherings of family and friends with traditional food, Mariachi bands, and folk dancing.
Not Independence Day
There is some confusion about Cinco de Mayo being the same as Mexican independence day, but it is not. Mexican independence was declared more than 50 years before the Battle of Puebla, and the event took place on September 16, 1810, not May 5.