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Cinco de Mayo marks Mexico’s against-all-odds victory against invading French troops in on May 5, 1862.
However to some Americans, it’s simply an excuse to over-consume tequila while no understanding of what the Mexican holiday actually celebrates.
Cinco de Mayo came more than 50 years later when French Emperor Napoleon III wanted to claim Mexico for himself
The celebration of Cinco de Mayo began as a form of resistance to the effects of the Mexican-American War in the late 19th century. The holiday gained popularity during the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
“Everyone thinks that it’s just party time, it’s Corona time,” said Mario García, a Chicanx historian from the University of California at Santa Barbara.
“It’s OK for people to go out and have a good time on a holiday like Cinco de Mayo — at least they have some sense that it’s some kind of a Mexican holiday,” García said. “But we should go beyond that. We should have Cinco de Mayo events that go beyond partying and drinking, where we call attention to what the history is.”
CBS News reports Mexican Independence Day, or Día de la Independencia, came on Sept. 16, 1810, when the country broke free of Spanish rule.
The French sent troops to force Mexico’s President Benito Juárez and the government out of Veracruz
On May 5, 1862, in a small town in east-central Mexico called Puebla, 2,000 Mexican soldiers faced 6,000 French troops. The battle lasted from daybreak to early evening, and when the French finally retreated they had lost nearly 500 soldiers. Fewer than 100 Mexicans had been killed in the clash.
The battle also played a role in the American Civil War
With the French defeated and leaving North America, the Confederacy wasn’t able to use them as an ally to win the war.
While there are Cinco De Mayo celebrations throughout Mexico, notably in the city of Puebla, the event doesn’t compare to the celebrations of Día de la Independencia, said Mario García, a Chicanx historian from the University of California at Santa Barbara.
According to USA Today, by the 1980s, American companies began commercializing the holiday, especially by beer companies and restaurants that will offer Cinco de Mayo specials and cocktails. García jokingly refers to today as “Corona Day.”
Although not a major strategic win in the overall war against the French, Zaragoza’s success at the Battle of Puebla on May 5 represented a great symbolic victory for the Mexican government and bolstered the resistance movement.
According to History, in 1867—thanks in part to military support and political pressure from the United States, which was finally in a position to aid its besieged neighbor after the end of the Civil War—France finally withdrew.