Cinco de Mayo is Actually Bigger in the U.S. Than it is in Mexico
You know it’s a good week when you get two holidays back-to-back. Obviously, yesterday being Star Wars day and today is Cinco de Mayo. Now, there are a few misconceptions about Cinco de Mayo. One is that it is the day Mexico celebrates its Independence Day. Not true. That happens on September 16. Another misconception is that Cinco de Mayo in Mexico is as big of a deal as it is in the United States. Also, not true. The reality is that Cinco de Mayo in Mexico celebrates the victory of a single battle from the mid-1800s. In the U.S. it is used as a day to celebrate Mexican culture and heritage.
If you were to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Mexico it would be to commemorate the Mexican victory over France in 1862 at the Battle of Puebla. The reason this battle took place is that, at the time, Mexico owed a lot of money to different European countries. France is one of them. Countries like England and Spain sent naval fleets to Mexico for the sole purpose of collecting on the debt. France, who was under the rule of Napoleon III at the time, had other plans.
Napoleon saw this as a chance to set up a French colony in Mexico. Like his predecessor, he had plans to create a French Empire. What ended up happening was 6,000 French troops were sent to the small town of Puebla de Los Angeles. From there they would make their way to Mexico City. However, this French assault was stalled by 2,000 ragtag Mexican defenders who held off the French army from the early hours of the morning until the early evening.
This battle also has an interesting connection to the American Civil War but I won’t get into that today. If you are interested in learning about it though you can do that here.
Anyway, the Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla is the main reason for Cinco de Mayo. As I said, it is not as big of a deal as it is here. Mexico still celebrates the day but it is more so contained to the Mexican state, Puebla. They have a small parade and a recreation of the battle but other than that it does not get the whole dog and pony show treatment.
Again, in the U.S. we use Cinco de Mayo as a day to celebrate Mexican culture and heritage. In big cities like LA, Houston, and Chicago the celebrations can be quite big. For most of us in the Tri-State, we will enjoy a few tacos and a couple of margaritas and call it a day.