Cinco de Mayo – History and Celebrations

In the US, we know that Cinco de Mayo is Spanish for “5th of May,” and is celebrated on that date. But most of us don’t know much else about this holiday. Below, our guest author provides some history and facts about Cinco de Mayo.

Not “Mexican Independence Day”

There is a common misconception that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day. In fact, there’s an entirely different date – September 16th – known as Día de la Independencia, which is the date in 1810 that marked the start of Mexico’s war for independence from Spain.

The History of Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo, celebrated on May 5th each year, is a celebration of the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in the Franco-Mexican War. Spanish, French and English troops invaded after Mexico stopped paying their debt to those countries. Although Spanish and English forces withdrew by April of 1862, French troops continued to fight to conquer Mexico as part of their empire.

On May 5 of that year, a poorly equipped Mexican army was able to defeat French troops at the Battle of Puebla. The French army continued to fight for another 5 years, but the Puebla victory became a Mexican symbol of resistance to foreign rule.

Cinco de Mayo Celebrations in Present Day

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo celebrations are primarily held in the state of Puebla, with speeches, parades and battle reenactments. Puebla keeps the memory of its historic battle alive with a museum, and battlefield maintained as a park. Because it’s not recognized as a federal holiday, and businesses remain open, Cinco de Mayo isn’t celebrated as much in other parts of Mexico.

In the US, Cinco de Mayo has become a day to celebrate Mexican culture and history. Cinco de Mayo traditions include festivals and parades that feature traditional food and music from Mexico.

The author, Vineet Maheshwari from thepensters.com blog, enjoys learning about diverse holidays and cultures, making language learning much more enriching.  She encourages people to take up the hobby of learning new languages!

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