Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de MayoIn case you haven’t heard, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day.  In order to explain Cinco de Mayo, I have to give you a short lesson in Mexican history.  Late in 1861, Napoleon III of France sent a fleet to Veracruz, on the coast of Mexico.  The French army stormed Veracruz and then started moving towards Mexico City.  At Puebla, the well-trained, well-equipped, 8,000-man French army attacked the Mexican army of 4,000.  Some of the Mexican soldiers were well-trained and well-equipped, but legend says many of them were just peasants with farming tools.  On May 5, 1862 [exactly 150 years ago!], the Mexicans decisively crushed the French army, which was considered the best in the world at the time.

Mexico lost the war, and Napoleon III installed Maximilian I as Emperor of Mexico.  He ruled until 1867.  But the Battle of Puebla was still a glorious victory for the Mexican people.  Mexicans and Mexican-Americans living in California celebrated it at the time and have celebrated it ever since.  The celebration has spread to other parts of the U.S., not so much to commemorate the historic battle, but as a celebration of Mexican culture. [Paraphrased from Clipart © Jupiter Images.]