Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that has a different level of importance depending on where and who is celebrating it. For example, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated quite differently in the United States compared to Mexico. Many associate the holiday with the Independence of Mexico, however, this is in fact a misconception. The story behind this holiday is symbolic in that Mexico fought against foreign invaders and their imperialist goals to build a dependent empire within Mexico.
The true story behind Cinco de Mayo, or Cinco de Mayo as it is translated, dates back to the Franco-Mexican War between 1861 and 1867. This war was eventually triggered due to an outstanding state debt. According to History.com, Mexico defaulted on European debts, specifically with Spain, France and Great Britain. In response, these three countries sent naval forces to Mexico to pressure and demand reimbursement. With the situation that seemed like a high-risk scenario, Mexico managed to negotiate agreements with Spain and Great Britain. Mexico was unable to reach a compromise with France which, under the leadership of Napoleon III, took advantage of this opportunity to try to pivot toward building a dependent empire within Mexican territory. Napoleon sent 6,000 soldiers to attack Puebla, while Mexican President Juárez rallied 2,000 soldiers to defend the small city in central eastern Mexico. Although the Mexicans were outnumbered, they were successful in containing the French assault and only incurred approximately 100 casualties compared to France’s 500. This single battle did not have a great impact on the overall outcome of the war, however it became known for its symbolic victory. against the obvious incredible odds. The war finally came to an end when the United States came to the aid of its neighbors, applying political and military pressure on France.
North of the border in the United States, Cinco de Mayo has a very different meaning and its celebrations are just as different. While Mexico celebrates this holiday with military parades and re-enactments of the battle with France, the United States associates it more with celebrating Mexican culture and heritage. Many in the United States and elsewhere really misunderstand the true nature of this holiday. Many mistakenly celebrate Cinco de Mayo as independence from Mexico, yet this was declared 50 years earlier by the Spanish colonial government. Although there are many different notions surrounding this holiday, the United States celebrates it on a large scale in honor of the Mexican victory over its aggressors. In contrast, the celebration of the holiday in Mexico is generally concentrated in Puebla and less on a national scale.
Cinco de Mayo is one of those festivals shrouded in mystery, and although the celebrations themselves come from different ideas and meanings, the overall sentiment seems singular in nature. No matter where, who or how this holiday is celebrated, it is one that highlights Mexican pride and perseverance derived from a rich cultural heritage. Happy Cinco de Mayo.