World Facts

What is Cinco de Mayo?

Despite common misconceptions, Cinco de Mayo does not celebrate Mexican independence. It actually celebrates the Mexican victory of the Battle of Puebla.

Why is Cinco de Mayo Celebrated?

Cinco de Mayo is an event mainly held in the United States and Mexico on May 5th every year. Contrary to popular belief, the day does not celebrate Mexican independence but instead marks the time Mexico defeated the French soldiers at a Place called Puebla in Mexico in the year 1862. The event marks a historical conquest over one of the strongest powers in history.

History of the Battle

Mexico had undergone series of wars such as the American War (1846-1848) and the Reform War (1858-1861). Consequently, the country became bankrupt and was unable to pay its debts owed by France, Spain, and Britain. Despite negotiations with her debtors, France declined unlike Britain and Spain who were willing to give Mexico time to stabilize. France, under the leadership of Napoleon III, was determined to establish an empire in Mexico as part of the French ambition on Latin America. Hence, taking advantage of their debt situation.

The well-armed French forces staged an intense battle in late 1861, making government retreat with the then reigning President Juarez. When the French troops reached Puebla, the Mexican staged a stiff resistance and defeated the French. The French soldiers were approximately 6,000 in number while the Mexican army was merely 4,000 with less sophisticated weapons. The victory boosted the patriotism of Mexicanism, and morale but France staged another deadly attack with almost 30,000 soldiers a year later defeating the Mexican government and installing an emperor by the name Maximilian to rule Mexico.

The French occupation of Mexico, however, lasted only for a short period. Mexicans had opted for series of guerrilla warfare and in the process, got assistance from America. France also faced war threats from Prussia forcing them to retreat in 1866. Mexico finally freed itself from French aggression.

History of Cinco de Mayo

In California, some people view this event in connection with the “Chicano Movement” of the 1940s in America. The event gained popularity since then and spread to other regions in America gaining popularity in the 1980s. In Mexico, this day was declared an official event by Mexican President on 9 May 1862. The holiday is also recognized as the “Battle of Cinco de Mayo”.

The US State Congress called on the President of the United States on June 7, 2005 to proclaim the event to make people celebrate and commemorate this historic day. In Mexico, this day is observed as a national holiday with all government offices and schools remaining closed. Also, May 5 is celebrated in many parts of the world annually especially in areas with Mexican population including Cayman Islands, Canada, Jamaica, and Australia. Many countries have come together with Mexico in marking this historic event.

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