The Real History of Cinco de Mayo

4 05 2010

Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is NOT the celebration of Mexico’s independence from Spain. Mexico’s independence day was on September 16, 1810.

Cinco de Mayo is very important to the Mexican culture because it marks the victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.  This battle occurred 41 years after Mexico declared its independence and has come to symbolize Mexican unity and patriotism because Mexico was willing to defend itself from foreign intervention.

After the Mexican-American war of 1846-48 Mexico was in a state of national crisis. They had struggled to be financially stable since they declared independence and had taken out many loans from nations including England, France and even Spain. Mexico was not able to pay back these loans. In 1861, President Benito Juarez issued a notice that all payback was to be suspended for two years with the promise that payments would resume as originally scheduled.

England, Spain and France refused to agree to this plan. They decided to invade and take what was owed to them by using whatever means necessary.  England and Spain ultimately withdrew their armies and accepted payment warrants but France would not give up. They had a goal to set up a French Empire in Mexico under Napoleon III.  They invaded the country and headed towards the capital: Mexico City. In order to get there, they had to cross the state of Puebla.

President Benito Juarez instructed General Ignazio Zaragoza to fortify the city of Puebla and prepare his 5,000 men against the 6,000 French. The Mexican army proved to be strong and defeated the French army in an enormous victory.

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