A day of great pride and celebration in the United States. In Mexico; not so much. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over the invading French army at a place called Puebla, May 5, 1862. Point of fact, Cinco de Mayo does not celebrate Mexican Independence; that occurs on September 16th.
In a campaign to establish a strong foothold in Mexico, with possible sights on the United States, Napoleon III landed a large force in Veracruz, and those soldiers were marching toward Mexico City, when over 8,000 of them met up with Mexico’s 4,000 man army in a little place called Puebla. The outcome? Mexico’s under-manned and under-equipped army gave the French a battle to remember. David beat the daylights out of Goliath, and provided Mexico a much-needed boost in morale and hope.
It was not the end of the war, nor did France retreat from Mexico. The French ultimately succeeded in capturing Mexico City, and installed Emperor Maximilian I, who governed for around three years. In 1867, Mexico reclaimed itself, and was able to replace French rule with its own government, led by Benito Juarez.
But, thanks to a large Mexican-American population in the American West and Southwest, the Puebla victory has not been forgotten. It has emerged from the 1860’s gun firing salutes to today’s annual celebration of Mexican heritage and culture. Food, dance, music, patriotism; these fill the hearts, homes, and Latino communities with pride in a nation’s history and a people’s future.