May 5, 2012, will mark the 150th anniversary of the victory of the Mexican militia over the French invaders at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
This holiday, known as Cinco de Mayo, is a Mexican holiday, but may be the only national holiday that is celebrated more outside the country than is celebrated inside the country. Many believe that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day; this is not true; Mexican Independence Day is celebrated Sept. 16.
Cinco de Mayo is celebrated throughout the United States, but is only observed regionally in some parts of Mexico. It was always a popular holiday in the United States, but in the last two decades with the increased Mexican population in this country, it has become even more popular.
Another oddity of Cinco de Mayo is that the reason for celebrating does not seem to be widely known. The war in which the Battle of Puebla was fought was known by three different names: The Franco-Mexican War, The Maximilian Affair and The War of the French Intervention.
When Mexico decided that their country would no longer make interest payments to foreign countries, Napoleon III seized the opportunity and was able to assemble some 39,000 soldiers for an expeditionary force into Mexico, but when Britain and Spain found that Napoleon planned to invade Mexico, they withdrew their support and later made arrangements that were agreeable to all countries.
Napoleon III was determined to conquer Mexico as he had his eye on the silver in Mexico’s mines so he went ahead with the invasion. This was the beginning of a difficult period in Mexican history.
Some historians suggest that Napoleon’s real motive was to take over the United States by giving aid to the Confederacy during the Civil War. After the Confederacy won, Napoleon would move in and take over the United States.
The United States was sympathetic to Mexico, but this was during a hard time in our country also; we were involved in our Civil War. As soon as our Civil War was over, President Lincoln dispatched troops and soon the French invaders were forced to leave the country.
The celebration is not so much about the actual winning of the Battle of Puebla as this battle was not all that important to the military. It is how the battle was won that makes it important.
The French had amassed more than 8,000 troops against less than 4,000 Mexican troops. Outnumbered as they were, the Mexicans managed to defeat the French in this battle. The Cinco de Mayo victory gave the Mexicans reason for hope during a time when there was very little good news.
One reason that the holiday remains so popular is because during these past years when the recession struck, it became obvious that expenses for a Cinco de Mayo celebration could be kept very low.
In some businesses, for example, the celebration is as simple as someone saying, “Bring something for lunch tomorrow and we will have a Cinco de Mayo party on our lunch break.”
Unlike some other holidays, such as our Thanksgiving, where huge presentations of turkey, dressing and many trimmings are expected, simple chips and dip can be the basis for Cinco de Mayo food.
Several rolls of brightly colored crepe paper can be draped over tabletops and hung in streamers — and you have your decorations.
It is a fun holiday to celebrate. Everybody loves the story of David defeating Goliath, which happened 150 years ago at the Battle of Puebla.
Relax and enjoy yourself. Bring something for lunch and we will have a Cinco de Mayo party.