Discover the real story behind this US-adopted holiday, and why it's about more than margaritas and tacos.
Most Americans take Cinco de Mayo as their cue to indulge in nachos, tacos and tequila, mistakenly interpreting the occasion as Mexico's Independence Day celebration (actual date: September 16). While nowadays it's more celebrated in the US than in Mexico itself, Cinco de Mayo is really a story of courage and inspiration that shouldn't be forgotten.
Cinco de Mayo/iStockphoto
Mexico had already gained independence from Spain in 1821, but two costly wars during that time had left the country indebted to Spain, England and France. When Mexico stopped making loan payments, France decided to assume control of the country by installing Maximilian of Austria as emperor of the land. Ahead of the new ruler's arrival, the 6,500 troops of the French army invaded the port of Veracruz and marched towards Mexico City. But, once they got to the town of Puebla they encountered strong resistance from a small and poorly armed militia. This resolute group of 4,500 men, women and children defeated the French army on May 5th on what is now considered "La Batalla de Puebla."
Mexico City, among other cities including those in the US, hold annual and very colorful reenactments of this battle including "poblanos" with wide straw hats, colorful bandanas and black-painted faces (to differentiate them from the "franceses"). Some of the men even wear skirts, braids and carry "babies" in a pouch to represent the women who fought along the troops. The "French soldiers" wear vintage uniforms and carry rifles. At the end, they get together around a table abundant with traditional meals of pozole, tostadas, gorditas and "cochinita pibil".
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