Why Do We Celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

Many stories surround Cinco de Mayo, which means “Fifth of May” in Spanish. This Mexican holiday commemorates a military victory won by that country’s army over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, which took place on May 5, 1862. That day, the poorly equipped Mexicans, outnumbered two to one by the invaders, met on the field of battle and decisively beat the superior French force. After the Mexican victory, Cinco de Mayo became a cause for celebration in Mexico and elsewhere, especially in the United States.

The Holiday’s Genesis

Cinco de Mayo traces its roots back to the second French intervention in Mexico. The first intervention had occurred after the Mexican-American War, which took place from 1846 to 1848. The French Empire under ruler Napoleon III had long wanted to establish a “Latin America” that France would control, thus rebuilding that nation’s influence in the Americas.

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