Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cinco de Mayo -- Not Merely a Drinking Day and Nor Is It Mexican Independence Day!

A little background on Cinco de Mayo in case you don’t know about the holiday. During the American Civil War, the French army during the reign of Napoleon III invaded Mexico with the intent of subduing it and establishing a part of the French empire in Mexico. And to prevent American expansion as well as because Napoleon III despised the United States, his army was also to help supply the Confederate Army. Near Puebla de Los Angeles (not our Los Angeles) on May 5, 1862, the Mexican army met a French army of two-three times its size. The Americans, due to the Monroe Doctrine, supported Central American interests against European outsiders, but at the time could not come to the aid of the economically-ravaged and heavily in debt Juarez-administration in Mexico. But, despite being poorly armed and sloppy-looking as well as out-numbered the Mexican army under Zaragosa took the day. This helped significantly delay supplying the Confederate Army though it did not keep the French from briefly holding Mexico. However, since the Confederate Army was delayed in being supplied, the Union army was able to build to its greatest strength. After the American Civil War was over, Americans came with troops, weapons, and supplies to help the Mexicans expel the French. The Juarez administration, which had to go into hiding during the French-placed regime under Austrian Archduke Maximillan Ferdinand, now was able to come out of hiding. They expelled the French and executed Ferdinand.

However, May 5, 1862, is not Mexican Independence Day. That is September 16, 1810. Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that symbolizes Mexican courage and identity when faced with a hostile and powerful foreign power. It is a minor holiday in Mexico, but it has gained in significance in America. In the 1960s, according to (the History Channel’s website), Chicano activists raised awareness of the day because of the Mexican people’s stand against foreign invaders. It is, as we know, celebrated much today, particularly as a Mexican-American blended holiday.


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