Cinco de Mayo: The Origin

Cinco de Mayo: The Origin

Carsyn Hall

Cinco de Mayo: The Origin
Carsyn Hall

Cinco de Mayo is one of the most misunderstood holidays in Mexican history. People often mistake Cinco de Mayo as Mexico’s day of independence, when it’s actually much different than that. It’s meant to be remembered as a single victorious battle. Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May, is a day that celebrates a victory won by Mexico’s Army in 1862.

On May 5, 1862, Mexico celebrated a victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. This year it falls on a Tuesday and is also known as Battle of Puebla Day.

While it’s actually a minor holiday celebrated in Mexico, the United States has evolved it into an honor and remembrance of Mexican culture and heritage. We celebrate the holiday with parades, festive dress attire, and of course, food. Traditional foods such as guacamole, tequila drinks, tacos, and other authentic foods made with Mexican culture are the focus on this day.

As far as history goes, the country of Mexico was in financial ruin after years of internal strife, and the new president, Benito Juárez, was forced to default on debt payments to European governments. As a response, France, Britain, and Spain sent their naval forces in order to demand repayment.

France’s leader at the time, Napoleon III, decided to take the opportunity to create an empire in Mexican territory. Late in the year 1861, a French army stormed Veracruz, Mexico. They landed a large force of troops and drove Juárez and his government into retreat.

The battle fought at Puebla, Mexico, was between the army of the liberal government headed by Benito Juárez and the French forces sent by Napoleon III to claim French land in Mexico. Though the battle of Puebla doesn’t have a specific end date, the battle ended in a Mexican victory over the French Army. The victory is still celebrated today known as Cinco de Mayo.