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Why do we celebrate Cinco De Mayo? Some fast facts about Mexico's holiday

Posted: 3:36 PM, May 05, 2018
Updated: 2021-05-05 18:01:21-04
Cinco de Mayo Battle of Publa reenactment


SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Before you dip into that bowl of delicious guacamole or hoist that smooth blended frozen margarita in honor of Cinco De Mayo, brush up on the history of this Mexican holiday. We've listed some key facts about Cinco De Mayo you'll want to check out.


Be sure totake the quizwhen you're all done. Ace the test and you're certain to be the life of your Cinco Party with your newfound knowledge of the Batalla de Puebla...

MYTH: Cinco De Mayo celebrates Mexico's Independence Day, or Día de la Independencia

Nope. That's not true.  Mexico's Día de la Independencia, or Independence Day, is September 16th. 

Cinco De Mayo celebrates Mexico's victory over France in the Batalla de Puebla -- English: Battle of Puebla -- on May 5, 1862, during the Franco-Mexican War.

The battle saw an outnumbered Mexican army defeat a well-equipped and much larger French army in the town of Puebla de Los Angeles. 

To honor Mexico's unexpected victory, on May 9, 1862, President Benito Juarez declared henceforth that May 5 was to be a national holiday. It is still celebrated throughout the country.

MYTH: Batalla de Puebla was a war between Mexico and Europe

Close but no cigar. Mexico's Civil War drained the country financially, plunging it into a colossal foreign debt.  This forced President Juarez to suspend payments owed to European countries.  Spain, Britain, and France responded by sending troops to demand payment.

Juarez negotiated deals with Spain and Britain, but France, boasting one of the world's strongest armies, decided to send a force of 6,000 troops into Puebla intending to establish a French empire in Mexico.

On May 5, 1862, the French army, armed with long-range firepower, marched waves of soldiers uphill into Puebla.  They were expecting a swift victory but quickly retreated after losing hundreds of soldiers during the battle.  By comparison, Mexico suffered only a few dozen casualties.  The turn of events was a major victory for Mexico.

MYTH: The Battle of Puebla lasted several years

Nah uh.  The battle lasted a day. After their defeat, France ordered several thousand more troops into Puebla and Mexico City the following year and eventually took over the two cities.  The U.S. -- having ended it's own Civil War -- sent military support to help Mexico in their war against France forcing Emperor Napoleon III end the French occupation in 1866..

What is "Grito de Dolores," or “Cry of Dolores”

Here's this excerpt from the Library of Congress:

The Grito de Dolores ("Cry of/from Dolores") was the battle cry of the Mexican War of Independence, uttered on September 16, 1810, by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Roman Catholic priest from the small town of Dolores, near Guanajuato, Mexico.

“My Children, a new dispensation comes to us today…Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen 300 years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once.”

Mexico's Independence Day, or 'El Grito de Dolores'  -- also known as 'El Grito de la Independencia' (Cry of Independence) -- is celebrated on September 16.

Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Cinco De Mayo

In 1933, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt implemented a policy aimed at improving relations with Central and South American countries.

In his March 4, 1933 inaugural address, he said:

"In the field of World policy, I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor, the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others, the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a World of neighbors."

This effort helped mainstream and foster acceptance of holidays and traditions important to Mexican-American citizens, such as Cinco De Mayo.


Quiz Answers

Question 1: Cinco De Mayo celebrates Mexico's Independence Day, or Día de la Independencia
Answer: False

Question 2: Battle of Puebla was a war between Mexico and what country
Answer: France

Question 3: The Battle of Puebla lasted
Answer: One Day

Question 4: What is "Grito de Dolores," or “Cry of Dolores”
Answer: A call to arms that triggered the Mexican War of Independence

Question 5: Mexico's win on Cinco De Mayo was surprising because
Answer: The opposition was larger and better equipped

Question 6: The celebration of Cinco De Mayo was mainstreamed in the U.S. in large part by
Answer: President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy in 1933

FOUND A TYPO or ERROR? Let me know at mario.sevilla@10news.com