The History of Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday celebrated each year on May 5th. However, many Americans do not understand the importance of this holiday and why it is celebrated. Below is a brief history of Cinco de Mayo and its importance in Mexican history.

What is Cinco de Mayo?

Translated from Spanish, Cinco de Mayo literally means “Fifth of May”. The holiday is observed every year on May 5th to commemorate the unlikely victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. While observances of Cinco de Mayo occur throughout Mexico and the United States, the biggest celebrations can be found in the state of Puebla.

It is important to note that Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day; Independence Day is celebrated in Mexico each year on September 16 .

Why was the Battle of Puebla important?

The Battle of Puebla occurred during a chaotic period in Mexico’s history. While Mexico had gained independence from Spain in 1821, the Mexican-American War and the Mexican Civil War had destabilized the economy and caused widespread hardship.

During this time, Mexico accumulated heavy debt with several European countries, including France. With Mexico unable to repay the debt, the French Army invaded Mexico along the gulf coast and began marching towards Mexico City.

The French Army encountered heavy resistance outside the city of Puebla. Lead by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, a poorly outfitted Mexican militia of less than 4,500 men was able to defeat 6,500 soldiers of the French army. The military victory was a huge moral boost for the country, helping to create a sense of national unity and pride; this is why the victory at the Battle of Puebla is still celebrated today.

Is Cinco de Mayo celebrated in Mexico today?

While Cinco de Mayo remains an extremely popular holiday in the United States, it is not widely celebrated in Mexico. In fact, most Cinco de Mayo celebrations in modern Mexico are regionally based and found only in the state of Puebla. However, because of the holiday’s popularity in the United States, Cinco de Mayo remains an excellent opportunity for those of Mexican heritage to share their culture and history with friends and neighbors.