When you start to study Mexico history facts, you’ll come across familiar holidays, like Cinco de Mayo, but as you start to read out what Cinco de Mayo celebrates, you’ll likely be surprised about all the misconceptions surrounding this holiday. Cinco de Mayo, which is Spanish for the fifth of May, is a holiday that people throughout the US are familiar with, but few know the true Cinco de Mayo history. This date commemorates the Battle of Puebla, one of Mexico’s victories against the French army in the 1800s. As you dig into tacos and sip margaritas on May 5, knowing some Cinco de Mayo facts will help you appreciate Mexican culture.
Because of its popularity, many people outside of Mexico assume Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of the country’s independence from Spain, but one of the interesting facts about Mexico is that Independence Day is actually September 16. On this day in 1810, Miguel Hidalgo gave a rallying grito, or cry, that spurred the country to fight for independence, and this cry is reenacted every year in local festivals and from the National Palace in Mexico City. There are many Mexico history facts about this fight, and one is that Miguel Hidalgo, who helped inspire so many to fight, didn’t live to see his country gain its independence.
Like in many other countries, independence led to internal conflict and debt, and in the 1860s, France thought it spied an opportunity to establish another colony. On May 5, 1862, a French army approached the central city of Puebla, thinking they would obtain an easy victory. Unlike France’s highly trained infantry, Mexico was defended by a ragtag, but passionate group of indigenous soldiers, and headed by Ignacio Zaragoza, they were able to defend Puebla and fight off the French troops in a single day. This became known as the Battle of Puebla, and this history is one of the most important Cinco de Mayo facts. One of the other interesting facts about Mexico is that France tried to invade multiple times and to establish a regime favorable to French interests, and the invaders weren’t expelled until 1967. In the grand scheme of Mexico history facts, the Battle of Puebla was a small but significant victory against the French, showing that its people couldn’t be conquered, and the Cinco de Mayo history celebrates this spirit.
How Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Mexico isn’t what you might expect. While many in the US spend the day celebrating Mexican heritage, Cinco de Mayo isn’t a federal holiday in Mexico. In fact, it’s quite an ordinary day for most families with businesses and banks staying open. If you do want to see how Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Mexico, you’ll want to visit the city of Puebla because when it comes to what Cinco de Mayo celebrates, this was the center of the battle, and today, reenactments and military parades celebrate the historic win.
When you look at how Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Mexico compared to the US, it may surprise you that it’s become a commonly-known holiday. The Cinco de Mayo history in the US grew from the work of Chicano activists in the 1960s who made the holiday famous as a way to celebrate Mexican culture and heritage. Today, the festivities and celebrations focus more on celebrating Mexican identity than remembering the Battle of Puebla, but learning more and more interesting facts about Mexico will help you appreciate this holiday.
While you’ve likely heard of the holiday and may have even celebrated with a Mexican feast, these Cinco de Mayo facts aren’t widely known throughout the world. The Battle of Puebla shows the strong independence and passionate love Mexicans have for their country, and celebrating this culture and heritage is what the holiday is all about.