Origins and History of Cinco de Mayo

May 5, 2012 by
Categories: Cinco de Mayo

Since today is Cinco de Mayo, we thought we'd let you know more about the holiday from About.com.

In 1862 Mexico was facing a severe economic crisis and President Benito Juarez decided to temporarily stop payment on external debt in order to deal with the internal financial situation. The countries Mexico was in debt to, Spain, England and France, were concerned about their payments and sent a delegation to Mexico to assess the situation. Juarez was able to resolve the issue with Spain and Britain diplomatically, and they withdrew. The French, however, had other plans.

Napoleon III, realizing the strategic importance of Mexico, as a neighbor to the growing power of the United States, decided it would be useful to make Mexico into an empire that he could control. He decided to send his distant cousin, Maximilian of Hapsburg, to become emperor and rule Mexico backed up by the French army.

The French military were confident they would be able to overcome the Mexicans without undue difficulty, but were surprised in Puebla, when a much smaller batallion of Mexican soldiers, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza were able to defeat them on May 5th, 1862. The war was far from over, however. More troops of French military arrived and eventually took over Mexico City, sending Benito Juarez' government into exile. Maximilian was crowned emperor of Mexico in 1864. Maximilian's government held until Napoleon III withdrew French troops from Mexico in 1866.

Cinco de Mayo became a source of inspiration for Mexicans during the French occupation. As a moment in which Mexicans had shown courage and determination in the face of a major colonial European power, it came to be a symbol of Mexican pride, unity and patriotism and is remembered every year.

Click here to read more at About.com.