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By Lulu Gleason

In my research, I found some very interesting things about this particular holiday. One of them being this is not a Mexican or Latino holiday and is usually confused with the Mexico’s Independence Day. It’s actually a holiday about fighting the giant and the United States Civil war.

The United States recognizes Cinco de Mayo as a holiday as it would for say St. Patrick’s Day (for the Irish), Oktoberfest (for the Germans), and the Chinese New Year (for most Asian cultures). Cinco de Mayo is a day to celebrate the ancestry of Mexican and Latino cultures.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over Napoleon III and his French army. You see back then, Mexico had many wars. You have the Mexican American war of 1846-1848, then the Mexican Civil war of 1858, and the reformed wars of 1860. I could quite imagine the treasury department back then was about ready to jump ship with all the debt Mexico had been getting into.

They owed money to Britain, Spain, and France. America at the time was in its own civil war (1861-1865) so providing assistance was about impossible. Britain and Spain were willing to have some type of agreement and allow the Mexican government some time before resuming payments to them for the debt. The French on the other hand invaded Mexico in late 1861 driving out the Mexican president Benito Juarez, and causing the government to retreat.

Many historians say that Napoleon III or France really only wanted to occupy Mexico for a completely different reason. They didn’t really want Mexico for any type of personal gain but instead they wanted a foot in the door to help other interests inside the United States. Napoleon III was known for helping
Confederate Rebels against Union armed forces during the American Civil war (1861-1865). When France met heavy resistance from the people in Puebla, the Mexican people promptly kicked them to the curb for a little over a year.

The Battle of Puebla was only a short lived victory but one that would go down in the history books. The French army at the time was one of the strongest in the world. They went into Mexico with 8,000 men and fought 4,000 Mexicans (who were poorly equipped) and still got served.

Napoleon’s troops weren’t able to re-establish their foot holds for a little over a year and were unable to support Confederate rebels with supplies against Union Forces. That year given by those who fought at the Battle of Puebla gave the Union time to build defenses against the Confederate Rebels and take them out at the infamous Battle of Gettysburg July 1st-3rd 1863. Of course, once the Union knew they were on the way to victory they then helped the Mexican government to rise and take out French occupation.

So let’s celebrate Cinco de Mayo in style! I’ll be grabbing my sombrero and going to the local festivals for some entertaining Mexican / Latino celebrations. During my celebration, I’ll remember and honor those who have fought to keep the United States a melting pot of many different cultures.
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3 Thoughts on “The story behind Cinco de Mayo.

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