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The whole world celebrates Cinco de Mayo. Except most of Mexico

The whole world celebrates Cinco de Mayo. Except most of Mexico

  • If you’re going out for Cinco de Mayo, you should *at least* know why you’re celebrating in the first place

When May rolls around, there are two things party people look forward to: Labor Day and Cinco de Mayo. We all know why we’re celebrating Labor Day (hopefully), but what about Cinco de Mayo? 

This is what people usually think of when they hear Cinco de Mayo. Photo by NIPYATA! on Unsplash

For the longest time, I personally thought Cinco de Mayo was the Mexican Independence Day. It was the only thing that made sense, since it was celebrated internationally and people really made a day out of it. Turns out, though, Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated on September 16

So why are we celebrating Cinco de Mayo? 

A little history lesson

Cinco de Mayo is actually a celebration of a battle won against the French. In the 19th century, France—under the leadership of Napoleon III (not to be confused with the other one)—wanted to claim parts of Mexico as their own. Typical. 

As part of the colonization attempt, a platoon of 6,000 French soldiers under the command of Charles Latrille de Lorencez set out to invade Puebla de Los Angeles (not to be confused with L.A.). Puebla de Los Angeles is a small town in east-central Mexico. 

Francisco P. Miranda, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The then neophyte Mexican government was seen as an easy target, so the French thought claiming Puebla would be an easy start. The newly-elected president, Benito Juarez, caught wind of the impending attack and assembled a small army of 2,000 loyal men ready to lay down their lives in defense of the city. 

Under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza, they did their best to fortify the city and defended the area against the French troops. The Mexican army was underprepared in comparison to the French troops. They were outnumbered, lacked supplies, and faced one of the biggest empires in the world. 

Internet Archive, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The battle, dubbed The Battle of Puebla, carried on from sunup to sundown. And to the surprise of the French, over 500 French soldiers died during the battle, while fewer than 100 Mexican soldiers passed. And with numbers like those, France admitted defeat and retreated. 

The story ends with the ragtag army defeating the global superpower. 

And the date was May 5, 1862. 

Cultural significance

Cinco de Mayo wasn’t necessarily a strategic victory, but it was a symbolic one. In most parts of Mexico, it’s not celebrated as a holiday as it is in the city of Puebla. One of the reasons for the holiday’s popularity is the population of Mexican immigrants to the United States. 

The holiday is celebrated as a day of commemoration of Mexican culture. It’s a way for Mexican immigrants to celebrate their past and heritage. But the actual reason it really blew up is because American beverage companies used the holiday to market alcoholic drinks to Mexican-majority communities. 

And now, they do it everywhere. 

While we don’t mind an excuse to party (I mean, who does!), we should at least know the origins of the day we’re celebrating. Take a shot for that ragtag army tonight, and make sure to get home safely. 


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