Cinco de Mayo is a holiday which has become very popular and commercial in the United States, with many restaurants celebrating two for one drink specials. However, many people do not know the real story behind the holiday and what it really commemorates. Cinco de Mayo is often thought to be the day of Mexican Independence, but this could not be further from the truth. Mexico’s history changed forever back in 1861, when President Benito Juarez was appointed to the head of the Mexican State. After many expensive wars with Spain, as well as the United States, the country was going belly-up in debt. The President declared that Mexico was going to take a two-year break in the repayment of their loans to France, Germany, and England. The countries then decided to form an alliance, and to head to Mexico in order to try and take over the country.
France however, had secret ambitions of an empire in South America and decided that they would overthrow the existing government and replace it with a French monarch, who would favor the ambitions and the desires of France. The French invaded Veracruz with 7,000 troops and tried to take over Mexico; under the lead of General Charles Latrille de Lorencez, efforts were made to try and conquer Puebla, Mexico. Germany and England had withdrawn their support of the cause, having decided instead that they were going to not back these efforts. Juarez gathered together a group of 2,000 men that he found in the surrounding villages, who he then equipped with the best that their budget could afford at the time. The battle was a slaughter, and the French suffered heavy losses. The Mexicans were led that day by General Ignacio Zaragoza.
A year later, the French decided to return and once again try to depose the Mexican government, with 30,000 troops sent in to assert their dominance in the region. They brought in an Austrian Archduke who was installed as a puppet leader for Napoleon III; unfortunately for the French, however, the archduke ended up getting killed in battle. His bullet-ridden shirt was taken to Mexico City to display in the national museum as a reminder to those who try to take away the autonomy of the Mexican state. The French then retreated, as they knew that they would not be able to get ahead in this battle. The cry of “remember Cinco de Mayo!” became a rallying cry for those who wanted to stand up for Mexican Independence.
The Cinco de Mayo call became more of a rallying cry in the United States than in Mexico, as it was used as inspiration for the United States Civil War as a way for the Confederacy to show their stand up position against the US Army. As the war raged on, the rallying cry continued to grow in popularity and Cinco de Mayo remains one of the most popular celebrated holidays in the United States.
The holiday of Mexican Independence is celebrated on September 16, and was the official call to arms against the Spanish government back in 1810. This battle was kicked off with the famous Cry of Delores, which became the official battle cry of the Mexican War for Independence.
By Melissa English
Photo By Russ Bowling-Creativecommons Flickr License
Photo by Angela Radulescu-Creativecommons Flickr License