Cinco de Mayo is one of the most celebrated holidays in the U.S., yet most people don’t know what they’re celebrating. A lot of Americans think that May 5th is Mexico’s independence but in reality, it’s the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla. Mexico’s actual Independence Day is September 16th ,which isn’t heavily celebrated here in the U.S.
The historic fight took on place on May 5th, 1862 during France’s attempt to occupy Mexico. In 1861 France deployed a massive army to the North American country to collect debts incurred during Mexico’s Independence War. The French troops were easily moving along the road to Mexico City until they reached the city of Puebla. Before the army reached the city limits, Mexican citizens stood idly by as the soldiers marched through their towns. The Puebla residents didn’t follow suit and decided to defend their homes. At dawn the city took up arms and attacked the French army from the northern side of the town. By early evening France had lost nearly 500 men while the Puebla militia lost less than 100 soldiers. Against all odds, 2,000 men and women of Puebla led by General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated 6,000 French troops and forced General Charles de Lorencez to order his men to retreat. Though the battle didn’t end the French-Mexican war, it sparked Mexican resistance against French occupation.
Cinco de Mayo is a very significant holiday to the people of Puebla, just like Martin Luther King Jr. Day is important to supporters of the Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, Americans have adopted this holiday as our own and we have celebrated it with burritos from Taco Bell and cheap sombreros from Party City. Hopefully this year Americans and Mexicans alike can remember and honor the bravery of the Puebla people on Cinco de Mayo.