Despite many myths, Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May, is not a celebration of Mexican Independence Day. Rather the holiday commemorates the Battle of Puebla. On May 5, 1862 the Mexican army defeated the French at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco- Mexican War.
The Battle of Puebla happened during a hostile time in Mexican History. 50 years prior Mexico declared their Independence from Spain and their economy was still in turmoil from both the Mexican American War and the Mexican Civil War. Since the country had many outstanding debts to other nations and France saw this as the perfect opportunity to collect their repayment and invade the country.
It was in Puebla that the much smaller and less equipped Mexican army was able to defeat the French and keep them from invading Mexico City. For Mexicans, this victory caused a surge in patriotism and pride. Ultimately, Cinco de Mayo became a regional holiday to remember the unlikely triumph.
Cinco de Mayo is not recognized as a national holiday in Mexico and is usually celebrated near the state of Puebla. In more recent years the holiday has become a celebration of Mexican heritage and culture in the United States. The holiday has become a much bigger celebration north of the boarder than south of it. Like Irish restaurants on St. Patrick’s Day, Mexican restaurants will be full of people looking to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a margarita and a taco!