Cinco de Mayo is coming up this week, and Kate over at ¡Hola! Jalapeño is hosting a margarita roundup to celebrate!
As a Spanish teacher, I have always had mixed feelings about this holiday because so many students think it is a celebration of Mexico’s independence. However, Mexico celebrates its independence on September 16th! Cinco de Mayo is nothing more than a battle that was fought by the Mexicans against the French in the city of Puebla. Cinco de Mayo is not a national holiday in Mexico. In fact, it’s not really celebrated beyond the city of Puebla! So, how did this holiday become so important in the U.S.?
Well, it’s important to recognize the history behind the Battle of Puebla. It occurred on May 5, 1862. At this time, the U.S. was in the midst of its Civil War, and Mexico was defending its freedom from the French who had invaded. The French, who were led by Napoleon III, planned to occupy and control Mexico in order to offer aid to the U.S. Confederate Army. The Confederacy wanted France’s help in order to beat the Union Army. At this point in history, France had one of the strongest armies in the world.
On the morning of May 5th, the French army attacked the Mexicans at Puebla, a city located not very far from Mexico’s capital. The French expected an easy victory in hopes of reaching and controlling Mexico City quickly. The Mexican army, led by Ignacio Zaragoza, was very small and poorly equipped compared to its French counterparts. In fact, the army was mainly made up of campesinos or farmers who had nothing more than machetes as weapons. Amazingly, that small but mighty Mexican army beat the French that day at Puebla and in turn stopped the French from coming to the Confederacy’s aid. The Union was able to gain strength and eventually defeat the Confederates. Thanks to its southern neighbor, the U.S. was once again unified and free of slavery, and Mexico preserved its freedom.
Following the war, Latinos in California gave speeches every Cinco de Mayo to remind people of how the Battle of Puebla helped bring about abolition. These speeches turned into parades, and as more Mexicans migrated to the U.S., they joined in the celebrations. Over time, Cinco de Mayo became a way to recognize and honor Mexican ethnicity, and so this is why the holiday is celebrated in the U.S. more than it is in Mexico. It is very similar to how St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated more by Irish living in the U.S. than those living in Ireland. Continue reading →