Although Cinco de Mayo is a very popular event in the United States, and most believe it’s Mexico’s Independence Day, it’s actually the day that Mexico defeated the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
By 1862, Mexico had been an independent country for more than 50 years but were under Spanish Law which had not been codified. The movement to create a national civil code for Mexico began with The Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1857 (this constitution established individual rights and freedoms of Mexican citizens) and the influence of Benito Juárez. Juárez, an indigenous lawyer, rose to power and eventually became the president of Mexico in 1861.
When Juárez became president, the country was in financial ruin. He was unable to pay and defaulted on loans to the French, British, and Spanish creditors. Because of this, the French were hoping to invade Mexico to take over and create a dependent empire.
The French attacked Mexico with double the troops of the Mexican army. The French army was confident that they would win this battle and take over the land for Juárez defaulting on loans owed. Surprisingly, Mexico won this battle which unified the country, boosted morale, and they received widespread praise.
Due to the political events that took place in the 1850s and 60s, the new national civil code did not take affect until March 1, 1871.
Cinco de Mayo in the United States:
In the United States, this event celebrates Hispanic culture through singing, dancing, food, and drinks. In 2005, Congress declared Cinco de Mayo an official U.S. Holiday. Even if you aren’t of Mexican heritage, Cinco de Mayo can be an opportunity to educate and inform yourself about another culture.