May 5th is Mexico’s Independence Day – right? Well, no. Mexico’s Independence Day is actually on September 16. So what is Cinco de Mayo?
After the Mexican-American War, Mexico found itself in a financial crisis. When they were unable to repay their debts, Spain, Britain, and France sent forces to Mexico to collect. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and left. France decided Mexico would be a nice place for an empire and chose to stay.
The French army hadn’t been defeated in nearly 50 years and they had twice the amount of troops as the Mexican army – and they were better equipped. What they probably figured would be an easy win turned into a major defeat, with the Mexican army scoring a decisive victory on May 5, 1862.
Earlier that same year, Abraham Lincoln had declared war against the Confederacy. Seeing an opportunity to break up the United States union, the French began supplying the Confederate Army with weapons. This didn’t go over very well with the Union Army, so when the French returned with 30,000 troops in 1864 and captured Mexico City, the US helped Mexico get rid of the French invaders.
Although not really celebrated in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo has become a celebration of Mexican-American culture in the US. It’s a day of great music, festivals, margaritas, and food.
Here in Atlanta, the Cinco de Mayo celebration includes a 5K race, live entertainment, food, and arts and crafts. Check your city’s website to see if a festival, parade, or event will take place near you. Or, plan your very own Cinco de Mayo fiesta with friends, family, and perhaps a piñata. Don’t forget the flan and fried ice cream for dessert!