On May 5, 1862, Mexico defeated France in a battle at Puebla. This battle did not end a war, yet we still celebrate it every Cinco de Mayo.
Every year, people in the United States celebrate May fifth or Cinco de Mayo, by eating and drinking what they consider Mexican food. Some people throw parties to celebrate Mexican stuff. Growing up, I learned to celebrate Mexican heritage on May 5th but I never really knew why. When I asked my husband, who grew up in Mexico, he shrugged. Apparently, Cinco de Mayo is not a celebrated holiday in Mexico.
This year, I went digging to find the history behind this holiday. In the 1860s Mexico struggled financially and failed to pay debts to England, Spain, and France. All three countries sent warships in response. While England and Spain negotiated a new deal, France took a different approach.
The ruler Napoleon III wanted to create a new French Empire in Mexico. Instead of negotiating, he sent 6,000 troops to invade. At first, the leaders of the government fled to Puebla. There they decided to make a stand. A group of 2,000 Mexican soldiers fortified Puebla and waited for the approach of the French. On May 5, 1862, the French attacked. The battle lasted all day, but eventually, the French retreated having lost at least 500. The Mexicans lost only about 100.
This battle did not decide the war and France eventually took over for a couple of years, so why do we celebrate it? Honestly, I don’t know. After the battle, some Mexicans that had settled in the United States heard of the win and celebrated and that tradition continued. Regardless, Cinco de Mayo is a fun time to remember and celebrate Mexican Heritage.