Cinco de Mayo is an important day in Mexico’s heritage and pride that is celebrated each year on the 5th May to commemorate the Mexican
Army’s victory over French forces at the battle of Puebla in 1862.
How it started
The battle took place after the Mexican – American war of 184648, the Mexican Civil war of 1858, and the 1860 Reform Wars. As a result of these wards the Mexican Treasury was left nearly bankrupt, in order to regain financial security President Benito Juarez gave orders to suspend all foreign debt repayments for two years. Due to this order France, Britain and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Mexico was able to strike agreements with Britain and Spain, who then withdrew their forces but France who was ruled by Napoleon 111 decided to take this opportunity to establish a Latin empire in Mexico.
In 1861, the fully equipped French Military fleet stormed Veracruz forcing President Juarez into retreat. The French continued on their way from Veracruz to Mexico City, but on the way they en counted strong resistance from Mexico’s forces near Puebla. Even though the French forces had more then double that of Mexico, Mexico were victorious.
After the War
Sadly the victory was short lived, 1 year later the French returned with a thirty thousand strong army and captured Mexico City. Due to the US Civil war in 1865, the French invasion only lasted from 1864 to 1867, US forces were able to provided extra military assistance to Mexico to help remove the French.
Cinco de Mayo is of high significance due to the size of the French army (8000 troops) compared to the Mexican army (4000 troops), it was the first time in 50 years that the French had been defeated.
Cinco de Mayo Activities
Today celebrations not only occur in Mexico and the US but around the world even down under in Australia where I am from.
Cinco de Mayo celebrations are mainly designed around the education of the youth about its historical significance. There are special events planned and the focus is always Mexican culture. Music and dance forms unique to the region are spotlighted at events such as ballet folkloric and mariachi. Advertising Mexican products and feasts including traditional Mexican beverages and music are the highlights of the activities.
The activities include:
- Cinco de Mayo skydiving in Canada.
- An air guitar competition in the Cayman Islands, in the Caribbean Islands.
- Mexican beer drinking competition in the island of Malta, in the Mediterranean.
- The Cinco de Mayo Culture Festival in Denver, Colorado includes exhibits of Mexican music, Spanish and Latin and Tex-Mex outdoor rock music concerts.
- Douglas Park in Chicago, Illinois organizes a festival, full of musical events, snack bars and cultural displays.
There are a number of cultural references made to the Cinco de Mayo celebrations. These include:
- The popular Bob Dylan song ‘Isis’, which mentions the “fifth day of May”.
- A musical hit by ‘War’, in their 1982 album ‘Outlaw’, with the track called ‘Cinco de Mayo’.
- A reference to the celebration by Ween, in the song ‘Buenas Tardes Amigo’.
- Cinco de Mayo celebrations are also mentioned in the ‘Spanish Flea’ album by Herb Alpert and a recording by Liz Phair.