Cinco de Mayo: Why is it important in Mexico, but more widely celebrated in the US?

Mexicans in our country and around the world commemorate every year the Battle of Puebla in which their army managed to defeat the French battalion.

Since 1862, Mexicans have proudly celebrated every May 5th as the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla. In this armed conflict, the Mexican army defeated the French troops even though they were grossly outnumbered.

This year marks 161 years since the critical battle in which the Mexicans defeated one of the most respected armies of the time. The French had not been defeated for almost half a century; nevertheless, four thousand Mexican soldiers managed to defeat eight thousand French soldiers.

Why did the conflict start?

The Mexican government was facing an economic crisis due to a civil war that had lasted about three years, so it requested an extension to pay its debts with Spain, France and England.

Although the three countries were set on carrying out a military invasion, thanks to diplomatic dialogue, Mexico was able to negotiate an installment plan. However, France did not comply with the agreements and decided to undertake military intervention in the Latin American country.

The triumph of May 5th represented a great victory for the Mexican people. Still, it did not completely stop the French army because Napoleon III sent 35,000 more soldiers to regain control after that battle. Nevertheless, the date went down in history as the day when the Mexican army succeeded in vindicating the country's independence.

How is it celebrated?

Although the Battle of Puebla is not the most important national celebration in Mexico, a grand civic-military parade is held annually, becoming one of the best shows in Puebla. The massive event is attended by Mexico's leading authorities, including the president, armed forces members, emergency services and thousands of students from the state.

This year's parade will feature a total of 15 floats that will ride through the streets for a little over two hours.

A date widely celebrated in the United States

Although the Battle of Puebla is a critical event in Mexican history, this date has greater relevance in the United States. In states such as California and Texas, where many Mexican migrants have settled, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated with typical Mexican dishes, traditional dress and lots of ranchera music.

In 1999, the Texas Senate declared the city of Goliad as the official place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, and massive festivals have been held there ever since. However, large celebrations are also held in Chicago, Denver, and Oregon. A curious fact is that the Cinco de Mayo festival in St. Paul, Minnesota, lasts for two days.