History of Cinco de Mayo
Despite common misconception, Cinco de Mayo is NOT a celebration of Mexican Independence Day (which is September 16th). Instead, it’s a celebration of the Battle of Puebla, a Mexican victory in the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). By 1862, English and Spanish troops had withdrawn. But the French persisted.
In May 1862, 6,000 French troops- the forces of Napoleon III- set out to attack Puebla de Los Angeles. The president of Mexico, Benito Juárez, managed to round-up a “ragtag force of 2,000 loyal men“.
The battle lasted all day long. The French retreated having lost almost 500 soldiers. Fewer than 100 Mexicans were killed in the battle. It wasn’t a strategic victory, per se, but it gave new heart to the resistance movement. It’s basically their version of the Alamo. Except they won.
In Mexico, it’s primarily celebrated in the state of Puebla, though other parts sometimes also celebrate it. People of Mexican descent started raising awareness of the holiday in the U.S. in the 1960s. Since then, it’s taken off. Critics of the celebration point out that some celebrations involve excess amounts of alcohol and negative stereotypes of Mexicans.
Since the holiday was originally shared in order to raise awareness in the United States, I vote for continuing to celebrate the holiday. And understanding the history behind it.