History Behind Cinco De Mayo

Cinco De Mayo (The 5th of May) is holiday that celebrates the victory of the Mexicans over French military forces at The Battle of Puebla - the Mexican State capital city - over 140 years ago. Prior to the Battle at Puebla, Mexico had already endured a series of bloody conflicts in its recent history, having gained independence from Spain in 1821, then fighting in the Mexican-American War that lasted between 1846 and 1848, followed by the onset of the Mexican Civil War occurring ten years later in 1858.

During these violent discords, Mexico's national economy nearly fell apart due to an accumulation of significant debts to several countries, including Spain, England and France among those demanding payment. When Mexico finally ceased payment on any loan, France attempted to establish control of the country by installing Napoleon's relative, Archduke Maximilian of Austria, as ruler of Mexico.

The French invasion began at the gulf coast of Mexico, from which they began to march toward Mexico City. Their crossing would not go unnoticed. Along the way, the French army met strong resistance at the Mexican forts of Loreto and Guadalupe, where 4,500 poorly armed militiamen - lead by Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin - defeated the French army of 6,500 soldiers. The outcome of the battle halted invasion of the country, and brought pride and national unity to the entire nation.

When Napoleon received word of his country's defeat, he launched another invasion to take Mexico once again. This resulted in the deposition of the Mexican army a year later with Maximilian installed as ruler of the country. However, his rule did not last long as the United States, now free of its own Civil War, began to provide military assistance to oust the French. Eventually, the Mexicans executed Archduke Maximilian and his bullet-riddled shirt was put on display in a museum in Mexico City.

Today, Cinco De Mayo is celebrated with the most enthusiasm in the state of Puebla, and has increasingly grown in popularity along the U.S-Mexico border as well as in parts of the U.S. that have a high population of people with a Mexican heritage. Several cities in the United States hold parades, concerts and even reenactments of the famous battle during the week following up to May 5th, with commercial interest in the holiday coming in the form of products and services focused on Mexican food such as a cuisine known as Mole Poblano - a thick spicy sauce that comes from a blend of 40 ingredients and spread atop turkey or chicken and Mexican style red rice. Though some confuse Cinco De Mayo with Mexico's Independence Day (which is September 16th), due to the spread of celebrating Cinco De Mayo, the holiday has developed into a bigger event north of the border than before, with the holiday calendar adopted by more and more people every year.