What Is Cinco De Mayo?

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By Rebecca Lopez – Cougar News Contributor

Cinco De Mayo – or the fifth of May – is a Mexican celebration for the victory over the French army in the battle of Puebla in 1862.

It began in 1861 when President Juarez of Mexico was having financial debts with the European government. France, Spain and Britain sent their naval troops into Veracruz, Mexico to retrieve their reimbursements.

Spain and Britain negotiated with Mexico and then withdrew their troops, France, who was ruled by Napoleon III, did not withdraw and decided to keep their troops in Mexico. In Late 1861 a well-armed French army stormed into Veracruz and drove President Juarez and his government into retreat

Certain that the French victory would come easily, 6,000 French troops set out to attack Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico.

President Juarez rounded up an army of 2,000 loyal men and women and sent them to the city of Puebla to prepare for the French assault. The Mexican army was led by Texas-born Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza.

On May 5, 1862 French Gen. Charles Latrille de Lorencez drew his army to the city of Puebla and began their assault. The battle continued throughout the day for about four hours until the French finally retreated.

The French had lost nearly 500 soldiers in comparison to the loss of 100 Mexican soldiers. The battle was an overall victory against the French and now represents Gen. Zaragoza’s success at Puebla.

Though this was not a major victory in Mexico’s war with France, it was a great moral victory for the Mexican Government and helped tighten up Mexican resistance. Today, the Mexican army’s victory over France is now celebrated annually every Cinco de Mayo – or the fifth of May.

Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence day, which is celebrated on September 16, 1810. Rather it is a celebration of the appreciation of the Mexican culture.

Cinco de Mayo is primarily celebrated in the state of Puebla where the victory took place and has also become popular in areas of the United States with large populations of people of Mexican heritage.

The holiday became popular in the United States in the 1960’s and 1970’s by Chicano activists. Cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston host annual Cinco de Mayo celebrations that draw hundreds of people each year.

The Festival de Fiesta Broadway in Los Angeles is the world’s largest Cinco de Mayo event where more than 600,000 people gather each year to celebrate. This year the event will be taking place Sunday May 8 and will be covering 24 square blocks of Downtown Los Angeles.

There are also Cinco de Mayo celebrations taking place in Santa Clarita. The celebration will be taking place Thursday, May 5 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Old Town Newhall where two blocks will be closed to traffic so that you can enjoy traditional Mexican food, music, and dance.

Enjoy this year’s Cinco de Mayo and remember that it is a celebration rooted by the Mexican people – folk dancing, margaritas and plenty of food for everyone no matter what race or gender.