For most people Cinco de Mayo is a holiday to go out and party, but there is a great deal of historical significance behind the holiday.  One major misconception is that it is Mexico’s Independence Day, which is actually held September 16th.  Here we take a look at a few things you may not have known about Cinco de Mayo.

In the early 1860s, Mexico had fallen in immense debt to France. That situation led Napoleon III, who had flirted with supporting the confederacy, to send troops to not only overtake Mexico City, but also to help form a Confederate-friendly country that would neighbor the South.”

Cinco de Mayo, which isn’t widely celebrated in Mexico, commemorates an underdog victory over France in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The victory was galvanizing for the Mexican forces — and for those supporting them from afar — but it was short-lived, as France later occupied Mexico for a few years. Still, Cinco de Mayo continued to be celebrated in Puebla and, perhaps more significantly, by Mexican-Americans north of the border.”

The Battle of Puebla was a triumphant win for Mexico. However, the country failed in its attempts to push out the French. They were defeated, and colonial rule lasted for the next five years. In 1867, with support from the United States, Mexico fought the French and won back their independence.”

During the Battle of Puebla, a young officer named Porfirio Diaz distinguished himself. Diaz subsequently rose rapidly through the military ranks as an officer and then as a politician. He even aiding Juarez in the fight against Maximillian. In 1876, Diaz reached the presidency and did not leave until the Mexican Revolution kicked him out in 1911 after a rule of 35 years.”

The U.S. celebration of the holiday began in California in 1863 as an expression of solidarity with Mexico against the French. By the 1930s, the holiday spread and was considered an opportunity to celebrate Mexican identity, promote cultural awareness, and build community.”

Today, while the date is promoted as a day to celebrate Mexican food, culture, and tradition, many without Mexican heritage use it as an excuse to throw a party and drink. Still, many major cities, like Portland, Oregon, and San Diego, California, stay true to the holiday’s roots, hosting cultural and historical performances, alongside naturalization ceremonies for new citizens.”

In Mexico, the commemoration of the battle continues to be mostly ceremonial, such as through military parades or battle reenactments. Cinco de Mayo is sometimes mistaken for Mexico’s Independence Day—the most important national holiday in Mexico—which is celebrated on September 16th.”

The strangest American Cinco De Mayo celebration takes place in the unlikeliest locale: Chandler, Arizona, where every year roughly 8,000 people arrive for the Chihuahua Races. They also crown a King and Queen Chihuahua. Oh, aye!”

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May 5 21
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