Do you need to ask what day is Cinco de Mayo? Read on, learn a little Espanol and blush...
5th of May or "Cinco de Mayo" as it is said in Spanish is a national holiday in Mexico and is celebrated widely in the U.S. as well, but it is not Mexico’s day of Independence which is the 16th of September. This Mexican Holiday is celebrating the defense of the Mexico’s independence and not the gaining of it, which actually had occurred 50 years before in September of 1810. Cinco de Mayo celebrates the defeat of the French Army sent by France which was under the rule of Louis Napoleon III.
History shows that after the Mexican President Benito Juarez on July 16th of 1861, had made the decision to suspend payment of debts for 2 years, to the 3 major European powers at the time, the French did not accept this offer of temporary suspension of payment as the English and Spaniards did. The French troops were ordered to Mexico City and President Juarez sent General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin to fortify the City of Puebla 100 miles to the east of Mexico City in defense of the oncoming French troops.
Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of the Battle of Puebla on May 5th in the year of 1862, where a poorly equipped and a much outnumbered Mexican army with Mesitozo and Zapotec Indians inspired by freedom and determined to defend it were able to defeat the French at the forts of Loreto and Guadalupe in the city of Puebla.
Battle of Puebla and the French Invasion
It is said that the young General Zaragoza had ordered his cavalry to the flank of the French army and as they stupidly chased them as they had planned an ambush the infantry was left to fight in a muddy battlefield that gave the Mexicans the advantage needed to gain defeat.
While the victory was one of substantial importance because the underdog Mexican army which was armed, contrary to some accounts, yet well outnumbered defeated the ominous French army creating a moral boost to all of Mexico, the French did however very quickly send many more troops and a year after invaded Mexico City.
What is interesting is the celebration of 5 de Mayo is probably more widespread in the U.S. than it is here in Mexico. It is considered a national holiday and is heavily celebrated in the city of Puebla, Mexico city and many other areas of Mexico it is not near as important to Mexicans as their true independence day, the 16th September. There is a story of how a high school teacher in the Los Angeles area, which was predominately Hispanic, had looked for an important holiday to celebrate during the school year and found the Battle of Puebla to celebrate with the students. This celebration in the L.A school system possibly, along with the commercialization of 5 de Mayo by the U. S. in Hispanic areas, Cinco de Mayo has become a very popular day of fiesta for Americans, Mexicans and Chicanos (American-born Mexicans) all over the U.S.
The Cinco de Mayo celebrations include traditional dances, piñatas, and foods like Mole and chipotle sauces, tacos and Margaritas, of course, can be found in most major cities of America today. Near Mexico City’s airport, there is even a re-enactment of the battle of Puebla every year as well as a very large festival in the City Of Puebla. So while it is not really Mexico’s Independence Day it, of course, it a great excuse for a fiesta and Viva Mexico!