Tuesday, May 5, 2009

147 Years Ago Today: Cinco De Mayo...

Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for "fifth of May") is a regional holiday in Mexico, primarily celebrated in the state of Puebla, with some limited recognition in other parts of Mexico. The holiday commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely defeat of French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín.

While outnumbered, the Mexicans defeated a much better-equipped French army that had known no defeat for almost 50 years. However, Cinco de Mayo is not "an obligatory federal holiday" in Mexico, but rather a holiday that can be observed voluntarily.

While Cinco de Mayo has limited significance nationwide in Mexico, the date is observed in the United States and other locations around the world as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. However, a common misconception in the United States is that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence Day, which actually is September 16 (dieciséis de septiembre in Spanish), the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico.


In 1861, Mexico ceased making interest payments to its main creditors. In response, in late 1861, France (and other European countries) attacked Mexico to try to force payment of this debt. France decided that it would try to take over and occupy Mexico. France was successful at first in its invasion; however, on May 5, 1862, at the city of Puebla, Mexican forces were able to defeat an attack by the larger French army. In this Battle of Puebla, the Mexicans were led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín.

Although the Mexican army was victorious over the French at Puebla, the victory only delayed the French invasion on Mexico City; a year later, the French occupied Mexico. The French occupying forces placed Maximilian I, Emperor of Mexico on the throne of Mexico. The French, under U.S. pressure, eventually withdrew in 1866-1867. Maximilian was executed by President Benito Juarez, five years after the Battle of Puebla.

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