No, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day.
LOL to most of you that is obvious, but to many other Americans this may come off as a surprise.
Cinco de Mayo actually celebrates the Battle of Puebla which occurred in 1862, in which Mexico’s army beat the French. Long story short, Mexico was indebted to France, Britain, and Spain, and when France came demanding their money and tried to seize some Mexican territory; well let’s just say they didn’t have much luck with that. This win was important because the French were well-equipped while the Mexican army was small and poorly supplied. It was symbolic to the Mexican government because it gave them the power to hold up their resistance movement, and eventually France withdrew.
This holiday, although hardly celebrated in Mexico (aside from in the city of Puebla), has become kind of a big deal here in the United States. Here, not only do Mexican-Americans celebrate it, but it is celebrated by everyone.
So why do we celebrate it here?
The answer is: in the 1960’s, Chicano activists raised awareness here in the U.S. because they were proud of the victory of an indigenous President (Benito Juarez) over a European army. This win was very symbolic and empowering because Benito Juarez was the first indigenous President of Mexico, and to have an army under his presidency beat a European army was a huge deal. Mexican Americans wanted this occasion to be celebrated here, and to be one of the great triumphs of Mexico over European countries after generations of oppression.
Eventually the celebrations expanded to more than just Mexican Americans, and throughout the country we now celebrate it with parties, parades, bar specials, mariachi music, and Mexican food!
So no, Cinco de Mayo is not Independence Day in Mexico… the more you know!