Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day
Cinco de Mayo is fast approaching and after catching some local television advertisements in Lubbock, some people who wouldn't know any better might take this to be a time just get drunk and eat great Mexican food. Much like St. Patrick's Day, the debauchery overshadows the meaning of celebrating the day.
First and foremost, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. Mexican Independence Day falls on September 15th and 16th. The fight for independence began in Dolores, Mexico by Miguel Hidalgo y Castilla, a Catholic priest. Castilla gave a greeting known as the Grito de Dolores and the Mexican fight of freedom began a decade long war from their colonial rulers, the Spanish.
Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Battle of Puebla during the French occupation of Mexico under the direction French dictator Napoleon III to collect on past debts owed by Mexico. The ragtag bunch of Mexican soldiers, mostly conscripted farmers and peasants, managed to soundly defeat the well fed and well supplied French forces who outnumbered the Mexicans 2 to 1. The leader of the Mexican force was a Texas born man by the name of Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin.
While the battle didn't keep the French from installing a puppet Emperor, Maximilian I, this was the last time a European power would invade a sovereign nation in the Americas. The Republicans in Mexico would eventually defeat the Mexican monarchists after the French pulled their soldiers out and Maximilian would be executed by President Benito Juarez and his forces.
Cinco de Mayo matters because it was the last gasp of European colonialism in the Americas and a victory for the Republic of Mexico over the imperialistic French forces. While you celebrate this Saturday drink a Negro Modelo, eat some tacos and reflect on the 150th anniversary of the French.