What is the Origin of Cinco De Mayo

In order to understand the origin of Cinco de Mayo, which celebrates the Mexican victory over oppression, bravery in the face of great odds and belief in a country's right to self-rule, you need a brief history lesson.

France Versus Mexico
In 1861, Mexico had fallen on hard fiscal times. Their money woes were a result of the Mexican-American War of 1846. In order to try to deal with their crisis, the president of Mexico at the time, Benito Juárez, decided that Mexico would not be paying its foreign debt for the next two years.

That plan wasn't acceptable to Great Britain, Spain and France, but only the French decided to retrieve its payments by force. French leader Napoleon III decided to claim Mexico for France by naming his relative, Archduke Maximilian of Austria as the new Mexican ruler.

The Battle of Puebla
Of course, Mexico did not want this. The smaller Mexican army of 4,000 men, having no fancy uniforms as the French did, and being less equipped overall, nonetheless gave the French army a run for its money. On May 5, 1862, the Texas-born Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza led the Mexicans to victory against the French Army. The famous battle was called the Battle of Puebla.

Victory After Defeat
Despite the surprise victory in 1862, the French persevered, and in 1864, Maximilian did become the French ruler of Mexico after winning subsequent battles. But America pressured France, and Mexican resistance remained strong, leading to the French withdrawal and death of Maximilian in 1867. That American pressure was aided by the post Civil War victory of the Union forces. Led by General Phil Sheridan, American soldiers supplied weapons and supported the Mexican army in getting the French out of Mexico. Americans and Mexicans marched together in the Victory Parade held in Mexico City.

Even though the battle wasn't ultimately won on May 5, 1862, that date is celebrated because it signifies the day the Mexican resistance had victory over the larger and more prepared French army.

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