Why we celebrate 5 de Mayo?
Cinco de Mayo is a date of great
importance for the Mexican and Chicano communities. It marks the victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle
Althought the Mexican army
was eventually defeated, the "Batalla de Puebla" came to represent a symbol of Mexican unity and patriotism. With this victory,
demonstrated to the world that Mexico and all of Latin
America were willing to defend themselves of any foreign intervention. Especially those from imperialist states
bent on world conquest.
Cinco de Mayo's history has
its roots in the French Occupation of Mexico. The French occupation took shape in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War
of 1846-48. With this war, Mexico entered
a period of national crisis during the 1850's. Years of not only fighting the Americans but also a Civil War, had left Mexico devastated and bankrupt. On July 17, 1861, President
Benito Juarez issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for a brief period of two years, with
the promise that after this period, payments would resume.
The English, Spanish and French
refused to allow president Juarez to do this, and instead decided to invade Mexico
and get payments by whatever means necessary. The Spanish and English eventually withdrew, but the French refused to leave.
Their intention was to create an Empire in Mexico
under Napoleon III. Some have argued that the true French occupation was a response to growing American power and to the Monroe
Doctrine (America for the Americans).
Napoleon III believed that if the United States
was allowed to prosper indescriminantly, it would eventually become a power in and of itself.
In 1862, the French army began
its advance. Under General Ignacio Zaragoza, 5,000 ill-equipped Mestizo and Zapotec Indians defeated the French army in what
came to be known as the "Batalla de Puebla" on the fifth of May.
In the United States, the
"Batalla de Puebla" came to be known as simply "5 de Mayo" and unfortunately, many people wrongly equate it with Mexican Independence
which was on September 16, 1810, nearly a fifty year difference. Over, the years Cinco de Mayo has become very commercialized
and many people see this holiday as a time for fun and dance. Oddly enough, Cinco de Mayo has become more of Chicano holiday
than a Mexican one. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated on a much larger scale here in the United States
than it is in Mexico. People of Mexican
descent in the United States celebrate
this significant day by having parades, mariachi music, folklorico dancing and other types of festive activities.