Origins of Cinco de Mayo Day

Commemororates Fight Against Oppression


Many people believe that May 5 is the anniversary of the Mexican independence. But they're mistaken, for the Mexican Independence Day is September 16. To understand the origins of the celebration, you need to go back to the middle of the 19th century. After the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, Mexico was in a fiscal crisis. In 1861 Mexican President Benito Juárez declared that Mexico was suspending payment on all its foreign debt for two years. Even though Juárez had said payments would resume in 1863, Great Britain, France and Spain were not satisfied. Although the British and Spanish backed off, France insisted on using force to secure its debt payments. French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte named a relative of his, Archduke Maximillian of Austria, as ruler of Mexico. As it was marching toward Mexico City, the French Army encountered stiff resistance. On May 5, 1862, General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated the French Army in the Battle of Puebla. The Mexican victory was a surprise, for the French Army was and larger and better equipped. There is a saying that it's possible to win the battle and lose the war. The French won other battles, and Maximillian became the ruler in 1864. But facing Mexican resistance and American pressure, the French withdrew its troops in 1867. Cinco de Mayo is a time to recognize the bravery of those who fight against oppression. Perhaps that is why this holiday is popular wherever there are people of Mexican descent.


Copyright © 2001- , Terry Muse 
Revised: January 17, 2002
Contact: Terry Muse