The History of Cinco de Mayo

The History of Cinco de Mayo

Jordan Coley, Sports Editor

Fiestas, Taco Tuesday, and sombreros make up a typical Cinco de Mayo for the average Yorba Linda High School Student. While most students may view this Mexican holiday as an “excuse to have a free period of food and movies instead of Spanish” Christian Finke (10), there is much more to the holiday itself. While many celebrate this holiday in the United States, it is a rather small holiday in Mexico. However, there is still important history behind the historic day.

The holiday is in celebration of the defeat of the French army during the Franco-Mexican War. Mexico, in financial crisis, could not repay their debts to other countries. France, Spain, and England demanded repayment of the loans given to the Mexican government. Under the rule of Mexican Benito Juárez, Mexico could not afford war with all three countries. Understanding Mexico’s position, Britain and Spain agreed to negotiate. Settlement deals were agreed to. France on the other hand looked to this situation as an opportunity to gain territory in North America. Refusing to negotiate, Napoleon III of France lead troops to Mexico and launched an attack on Mexico.

Coming with large numbers of troops and arms, it seemed inevitable that the Mexicans would be defeated. Preparing for the attack, Mexican troops retreated and prepared for a long battle ahead. On May 5, 1862, the French army assaulted the fortified city. Lasting almost a day, the battle proved to be a challenge for both sides. In the end, nearly 500 French were dead and almost 100 Mexicans lied dead. Because of their great losses of men, the French were forced to retreat. Mexico had defeated the French.

Many Americans mistakenly think that this holiday is the same as Mexican Independence Day. Mexico had already gained its freedom from Spain 50 years prior to this event. While it may not be a largely celebrated holiday in Mexico, it continues to be popular in the states. Rather than a celebration of independence, it is a celebration of Mexican culture. So next time you go to the local Mexican food restaurant in celebration with your family, or have a fiesta in class, remember the history behind the holiday.