Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo (5 May) is a holiday held to celebrate the victory of the Mexican Army of 4,000 soldiers over the French army of 8,000 at Puebla, Mexico, on May 5, 1862. Is not Mexico's official Independence Day, which is September 16, but is recognized as a day of celebration.
The events leading to the battle at Puebla in 1862:
Mexico declared it's independence from Spain in 1821. Many years of war followed, including the Mexican-American War from 1846-1848, and the Mexican Civil War in 1858. These years of war devastated the economy and Mexico incurred substantial debts to Spain, England and France. As terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo after the Mexican-American War, Mexico owed no debt to the United States. The Mexican Congress, faced with a Treasury that was almost depleted, decided to suspend repayment of international debt for two years. In 1862, when Mexico was unable to meet it's financial obligation to France, the country moved to occupy Mexico, and announced it's intent to impose a monarchy and appoint Archduke Maximilian of Austria as the ruler of Mexico. The President of Mexico, Benito Juarez, who took office in 1858, and was re-elected in 1861, was understandably resistant to this plan.
Mexico sought help from the United States, but the country was at the time engaged in its own Civil War, and President Abraham Lincoln was not able to spare military forces to assist Mexico. The French army landed at the Gulf of Mexico and began to move toward Mexico City. The French army was met with strong resistance from the men of the smaller and less equipped Mexican army, who were concentrated in the forts of Loreto and Guadalupe, near Puebla. General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin led the Mexican army to victory and stopped the French invasion of the country.
A year later, the French again moved to occupy Mexico, and this time were successful in defeating the Mexican army. By 1864 France had taken control of Mexico City and had appointed Maximilian as the ruler of Mexico. He ruled until 1867, when the United States provided military assistance to Mexico, enabling them to regain control of their country. Maximilian was deposed by and after a military trial was executed on June 19, 1867.
Cinco de Mayo is recognized for the Mexican army's valiant fight and victory over the larger French Army forces at Puebla in 1862. The day is celebrated in many parts of Mexico, especially in Puebla, with all-day celebrations, military parades, small scale re-enactments of the battle, and religious ceremonies in remembrance. Cinco de Mayo is also celebrated in the western United States that have a large population of people of Hispanic/Mexican origin, including Texas, California, and New Mexico. In the United States the holiday has an emphasis on celebrating Mexican culture and heritage, and local festivals are held that feature traditional dance, music, costumes, and food of the Mexican people.
1. The French army numbered approximately 8000 - 9000 men, estimates vary with sources.
2. The Mexican army included military and civilians, including untrained Mestizo and Zapotec Indians and totaled approximately 4000 - 5000, estimates vary with sources.