Cinco de Mayo commemorates the date of May 5, 1862 when the Mexican army had a memorable victory over French soldiers on the outskirts of Puebla. It is often mistaken for Mexico’s Independence Day, which is celebrated on September 16. In today’s blog we will take look at this famous event which is remembered on this date every year.
The French occupation of Mexico took place after the Mexican–American War of 1846–48 and the 1858–61 Reform War. The Reform War was a civil war which pitted Liberals against the Conservatives and nearly bankrupted the Mexican Treasury. As a result of this, Mexican President Benito Juárez issued a moratorium in which he suspended all foreign debt payments for two years. Several European countries did not take the news well, and soon Britain, France, and Spain had their naval forces on the way to Veracruz demand payment.
Britain and Spain found a way to negotiate and left, but France decided to take advantage of the situation and use it as an opportunity to establish an empire in Mexico, one that was favorable to French interests. At the time France was ruled by Napoleon III, and this was his chance to establish his nation in the Americas.
In late 1861, the French fleet stormed landed at Veracruz and fought their way through with a powerful force that drove President Juárez and his government to retreat. The French continued onwards to Mexico City, where they hit strong resistance from the Mexicans near to Puebla. It was in this city where they would face defeat that would be recalled forever. 6,000 French soldiers attacked the Mexican army, numbering only 4,000, and were decisively defeated. Despite this however the French were able to regroup. Napoleon III sent more troops to Mexico and their army saw victory when the capital fell and Juárez’s government was forced into exile.
The Cinco de Mayo victory lifted the morale of the Mexican army and the Mexican people, creating a sense of national unity and patriotism. Now it is a day of Mexican heritage commemoration, an inspirational event for citizens of this country to remember. It is not a holiday, nor is it a festive celebration like you find in the United States, but rather a moment of reflection of national pride.
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