Happy Cinco de Mayo! Be sure to enjoy the day that most think is the Mexican Independence Day. Yet, today actually commemorates a decisive battle in the Franco-Mexican War. The battle took place in the city of Puebla de Los Angeles between French forces and a small number of Mexican troops in 1862.
The Mexican troops were outnumbered 6,000 to 2,000 but were able to outlast the French force and eventually cause their retreat. This sent shockwaves throughout Europe as well as in the United States even though Mexico’s northern neighbor was itself embroiled in the Civil War.
Although a victory in the battle of Puebla, the Franco-Mexican War lasted until 1867 as neither side had enough allied support. After the Civil War ended in the United States, they were able to financially support Mexico in their ousting of French proxy governors. Puebla would be later renamed to Puebla de Zaragoza in honor of the Mexican General who had led the victory.
Today the celebration has become a celebration for Mexican-Americans and in the town of Puebla but hardly any other locations in Mexico. The majority of Mexicans celebrate their day of Independence on Sept. 16 which was accomplished 50 years prior to the Battle of Puebla.
Mexican-Americans celebrate this day to honor their heritage and commemorate the Mexican defeat of French forces. Given that the day is close to American Independence Day and Memorial Day, the day lends itself to borrowing some of the same trappings of those holidays while adding Mexican flair.
So, if you want to have a Margarita, a Mexican beer, nachos, or tacos go right ahead. It’s a day to celebrate and probably we need some day to celebrate in light of all the craziness going on around us. Think of the day you’re commemorating like the Battle of Ft. McHenry in the War of 1812 that inspired the Star-Spangled Banner.
What’s your go to Mexican dish?