Cinco De Mayo Isn’t Mexican Independence Day But Who Cares Let’s Party
This Friday, legions of nationals will line up to pound cervezas in Mexican bars, buy rounds of tequila shots, and guzzle down nachos like it was independence day.
Those nationals will be mostly U.S. citizens, partying one this side of the wall, not in Mexico, and will be exactly nobody’s independence day.
That’s because the U.S. makes a much bigger deal out of Mexico kicking France’s arse than Mexicans do. Before we get too bogged down with all these facts, let’s order another round of shots.
Grab your passports, because in the same way St. Patrick’s turns ‘Mericans into honorary Irish, on Cinco de Mayo we’re all honorary Mexicanos.
It all started with a deal that went bad…
The United States suffered so many occupations, foreigners taking over the land, taking jobs from nationals, demanding a free ride, then sending home money they made.
We’re, of course, talking about the United States of Mexico.
First, it was the Spanish, but the British and the Germans tried to make inroads too. It was the French who had loaned Mexico large sums of money, but it wasn’t just them. Britain and Spain were on the hook for Mexico’s spending behavior too.
In fairness to Mexico, they’d suffered more than their share of war, and war ain’t cheap. First, it was with the other United States, from 1846 to ’48. Then there was the Mexican Civil War, call the Reform War.
Those two wars combined emptied the Treasury’s vaults. To not going under, Mexico announced they’d be holding off on loan payments for a couple of years.
The countries with whom they were in debt, lost their collective cool and sent ships to demand payment. Britain and France gave Mexico a pass for the time being, but France was not having it.
The Battle of Puebla
At one time France intended to install a monarchy in Mexico. The loan default proved a perfect opportunity for Napoleon III to make good on his plans. There would be a Second Mexican Empire, this one run by the Frenchies.
In 1861, a French fleet, led by French General Charles de Lorencez, stormed the beaches of Veracruz. The Mexicans immediately retreated, but the French pursued the battled.
In May of 1862, they attacked the town called Puebla de Los Angeles (not to be confused with the U.S. city, Los Angeles). The president of Mexico, Benito Juarez, organized a resistance of 2,000 loyal men to fight the French, and he put General Ignacio Zaragoza in charge.
The French were 6,000 men, but they lost some 500 soldiers on the 5th of May, where Mexico only suffered 100 losses. There’s something to be said for having the hometown advantage.
It took six years for the French to withdraw, but Mexico claimed that first battle. Later, Mexicans renamed their town Puebla de Zaragoza after the man who led them to victory.
Cinco de Mayo
In the years that followed, the people of “Puebla,” as the Mexicans call the town, celebrated their battle win over the French every year. They called that great day “Cinco de Mayo.”
While it was a form of fighting for freedom, France never took sovereign control of the nation. At the time, Mexicans still considered their independence day from Spain, September 16th, as they do to this day.
Outside of Puebla, few Mexican celebrate this battle, but who cares? We can still celebrate.
Don’t feel bad if you thought you’d been celebrating Mexican Independence Day all these years. Swill away your memories on Friday night without a shred of guilt. Just, when someone calls it independence day, drop some history on them.