May 5, 2012

A Brief History of Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo - Spanish, for the "fifth of May", is a holiday that originated in Mexico. This holiday commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

In 1861, Mexico's economy was in ruin. It's struggle to gain independence from Spain, in 1821, along with the Mexican-American war (1846-1848), and the Mexican Civil war of 1858 had left Mexico devastated, bankrupt, and heavily in debt to Spain, England and France.

On July 17, 1861, Mexico's President Benito Juarez issued a moratorium which suspended payment of these debts for two years until Mexico could get back on it's feet. When the loan payments stopped, France, who was eager to expand it's empire and establish leadership in Mexico, decided to take advantage of Mexico's situation and began action to invade the country.

In 1862, the French army began it's march toward Mexico City, but when it reached the city of Puebla it was met and subsequently defeated by a smaller, ill-equipped Mexican army led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin. The victory was a glorious moment for Mexican Patriots. It helped in developing a needed sense of national unity and is the cause for the historical date's celebration.

You may not be aware that Cinco de Mayo is more popular in the U.S. than it is in Mexico. Although Cinco de Mayo was a notable day in Mexican history, it is not a nationally recognized holiday in Mexico and is not widely celebrated there.  Mexican Cinco de Mayo celebrations are primarily limited to the state of Puebla, where they celebrate with food, dancing, and the reenactment of the Battle of Puebla.

Cinco de Mayo has become more and more popular in America where it serves as an opportunity to celebrate Mexican heritage and culture among the Mexican population as well as many non-Mexican Americans. Many special events are held all over America and in many places around the world in honor of Cinco de Mayo. It has also become increasingly more commercialized.

Cinco de Mayo is often confused with Mexico's Independence Day which is September 16.

Image: Sunflower
Originally uploaded by G60Pulse

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