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The History of Cinco de Mayo and Why It’s Celebrated

Cinco de Mayo (the 5th of May) is a holiday that celebrates the Mexican victory in 1862 over the French army at the Battle of Puebla. Many people confuse Cinco de Mayo with the Mexican Independence Day but they are 2 different holidays. Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on the 16th of September. Every year, on May 5th, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Mexico and the United States. While Mexicans don’t give the holiday a huge importance, Cinco de Mayo has become a holiday that’s celebrated extensively in many parts of the United States. Today, Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that celebrates unity and resistance. It also shows the pride of Mexican-Americans and commemorates the strong bonds between the peoples of Mexico and the United States.

  • The History of Cinco de Mayo

In 1861, Mexico was divided by regional conflicts and tensions and its economic situation was very hard. The Mexicans relied on loans from several European countries, including France. After years of internal conflicts and financial ruin, Mexico was unable to pay its debts and that resulted in states such as France, Britain, and Spain demanding repayment and sending naval forces to Veracruz. The negotiations between Mexico on the one hand and Spain and Britain, on the other hand, were successful so they withdrew their forces. However, France leader Napoléon III saw an opportunity in conquering a weak Mexican army to establish a monarchy on Mexican soil. On May 5th, 1861, the French army attacked the poorly-equipped Mexicans in the small city of Puebla.

According to History, Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza expected the attack and led a 2000-men army to defeat the French invasion and force the French army to retreat after losing more than 500 soldiers in the battle. Mexico was the underdog in the battle due to a larger and well-equipped French army. Thus, Cinco de Mayo became an occasion for Mexicans to celebrate their pride and bravery.

  • Why is Cinco de Mayo Celebrated in the United States?

Despite the history of Cinco de Mayo as a victory of the Mexican people, the holiday is celebrated in the United States more than it is south of the border. In Mexico, it’s barely celebrated except in Puebla, where the Cinco de Mayo battle took place.

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo became a celebration after President Roosevelt issued the “Good Neighbor Policy” in 1933 to foster multi-lateral relations with Latin American countries. Cinco de Mayo is an annual celebration of Mexican heritage and culture and there are so many areas in the United States with considerable Mexican-American populations. In 2005, it was recognized as a national holiday by the United States Congress and President George W Bush.

Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the United States involve parades and Mexican dance and food. The colorful dresses and the traditional “Baile folklórico” dance to Mariachi music are the exceptional parts that make Cinco de Mayo celebrations. In the United States, largest Cinco de Mayo festivals are usually held in states such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston.

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