Cinco de Mayo is a day to celebrate the Mexican Army’s defeat of the French at Puebla, Mexico on the 5th of May, 1862.
The story begins after Texas won their independence from Mexico in 1836. The Mexican government was deeply in debt. They were unable to pay their national loans to England, Spain and France. The Mexican president, Benito Juarez, was able to negotiate repayment with the English and Spanish governments. However, the French refused to agree to terms and sent in an occupying force.
The French ruler, Louis Napoleon III, wanted to create a new empire in Mexico and Prince Maximilian (who was later excuted) was sent to rule over it. The Mexicans rebelled and gathered a small army to fight the French. The Mexican troops were led by Texas born General Ignacio Zaragosa and Colonel Porfirio Diaz. These Mexican patriots met and defeated the stronger French army about 100 miles from Mexico City at Puebla on May 5, 1862. The town was renamed Puebla de Zaragoza to honor the Mexican General.
Eventually the French did overtake Mexico and there were many more battles to be fought. After the US Civil War, the Americans put pressure on the French to leave Mexico and supported the Mexicans cause. The French finally left Mexico in 1866 and soon after President Benito Juarez was restored to power.
The Battle at Puebla de Zaragoza represented Mexico’s determination to remain a free and independent nation.
Today, Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Texas center on Mexican culture and ethnic pride.