Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican celebration, but I heard about it in Texas. It seems to be more important in Texas, Los Angeles, and Chicago than it is in Mexico. In America, it has become a day of celebrating the merging of the Mexican and American cultures. Many think it is the Mexican Independence day, but it isn’t. The Mexican Independence Day is on September 16. Mexican independence was declared a good 50 years before the Battle of Puebla took place, the Battle that this holiday commemorates.
You see, from as far back at the 1500’s, Mexico had been dominated by European countries. It was even called New Spain, but it wasn’t just Spain who tried to rule them. The battle of Puebla was against the French. It was a very unusual victory because the French forces were so much larger and better equipped than the Mexican forces, but with the help of a big solid wall around the part of Puebla where the French attacked and some rain, Mexico was able to defeat France. The battle became the battle cry for the next 40 years to fight the foreign invaders and get the foreign interference out of Mexico. French interference ended with the killing of Napoleon III’s puppet, Emperor Maximilian by a firing squad.
It actually all began with the Mexican/American war. You see, Mexico had trouble taming Texas and considered Texas part of them. However, the original inhabitants of Texas, the Comanche Indians, were just too much for them. Mexico invited some people from Tennessee to live in Texas and told them they could have free land if they could hold the land from the Comanche. The Tennessee group made settlements, and even though they fought with the Comanche, they were able to establish towns. The Mexicans taxed them heavily without them having representation in the Mexican government. The Texans decided to get away from Mexico, but couldn’t decide if they wanted to be an independent country or just wanted a different Mexican constitution. The Mexicans, under Santa Anna, marched on the Alamo, a church building, killing everyone. It caused the Texans to go to war with Mexico. “Remember the Alamo” became the battle cry of that war. Texas became an independent nation, and then petitioned to become a state of the U.S. The Mexicans think it was part of the American President Polk’s Manifest Destiny. Manifest Destiny said that the U.S. was destined to own all of what is now the U. S., from the east coast to the west coast. You see, back then, much of the western part of America was part of Mexico. After the Texans pulled away from Mexico and petitioned to be part of the U. S., Polk tried to buy California and some other states from Mexico, but Mexico refused, so America went to war to take them, and Mexico lost them. The Mexican/American war lasted from 1846-1848.
In order to fight the Mexican/American war, the Mexicans made loans from England, France, and Spain. They were a new nation who had only declared their independence about 50 years before. They owed 80 million pesos in debts to these three European countries. The three countries landed in Veracruz, on the west coast of Mexico, in January, 1962. The English and the Spanish signed diplomatic solutions called “La Soledad,” and they left, but France had bigger things in mind than the debt. Napoleon III wanted to rule Mexico. The French soldiers marched from Veracruz across Mexico.
When they got close to Puebla, south of Mexico City, a huge French army led by General Charles Zatrille de Lorence attacked Puebla. Puebla’s army was led by Texas born General Ignacio Zaragoza. The Mexican army was made up of Mestizos, people of Spanish and Indian decent as well as Zapotec Indians. The French army had all the most up to date weapons, but many of the Mexicans had mostly only swords and spears. The French tried to bomb them, but Puebla’s big thick wall stopped the bombs, and the rain caused the French to slip all over the place, and the Mexicans won. It was not the end of the French in Mexico, but the battle became the battle cry to get rid of foreign dominance of Mexico. The war ensued for the next 40 years, and in the end, Mexico won!
Every year, in Puebla, they have enactments of the battle. They have a big arts festival and local food festival to commemorate the battle. However, Cinco de Mayo is bigger in the U. S. than in Mexico. It was just a small holiday in America celebrated by the Hispanics in America, but there was a big beer campaign emphasizing Cinco de Mayo, and many Americans jumped on board and a lot of people get drunk on Cinco de Mayo in America. In America, on Cinco de Mayo, they have parades, parties, mariachi music, traditional Mexican folk dancing, and traditional Mexican food. Americans love Mexican food!! If you look through my blog, I have several good Mexican food recipes you could try.