Cinco de Mayo history: Before you bust out the margaritas, why you're celebrating Cinco de Mayo

Instead of worrying about the rising price of limes for your margaritas this Cinco de Mayo, why not learn a bit about the reason this date is celebrated in the first place?

A festival often held as a celebration of Mexican pride, Cinco de Mayo is not a holiday marking Mexican independence, as many might believe. Rather, it celebrates an early victory against French colonialism in Mexico in the 1860s. Mexico's Independence Day, meanwhile, is on Sept. 16.

Cinco de Mayo (the "Fifth of May" in Spanish) is also known as the Anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, honoring a military victory for Mexico over the French forces of Napoleon III in 1862.

Historians say it was a very unexpected victory won by untrained, ill-equipped Mexican soldiers who fought against a disciplined, well-trained French army.

Although it took years to completely get rid of the French, the victory at Puebla never lost its power and Mexican forces finally defeated and expelled the French from Mexico in 1867.

Since then, the victory has been a symbol of Mexican resistance to foreign domination.

Along with parades, speeches and parties, in some Mexican cities there are reenactments of the Battle of Puebla, similar to Civil War reenactments here in the States.

Mexican immigrants and people with Mexican heritages in the U.S. have spread the popularity of the celebration, sometimes turning the festivities into a whole week's worth of dancing, food, music and fun. The last census notes that the U.S. is home to nearly 33.7 million residents who are of Mexican origin.

And, of course, some Americans use it as an opportunity to drink margaritas. 

So today when you're sipping on your blended drink and wearing a sombrero, bemoaning how expensive those limes were -- raise a glass to the men and women throughout American history (Mexican and United States) who lost their lives in the fight against colonialism.



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