What Happened on Cinco de Mayo?

May 5, 2021

It’s finally May! This year is flashing by so fast, and before we know it, it’s the fifth of May. While many Americans celebrate this day by eating tacos and partying, Cinco de Mayo had a rich, interesting history. Although it is more widely celebrated by Mexican- Americans in the US than in Mexico, May 5 of 1862 marks the date that Mexico held victory over France during the Franco-Mexican war at the Battle of Puebla. The French army outnumbered the Mexican army as they attempted to invade Mexican territory. 

The Mexican government was in financial ruins when Benito Juarez became president in 1861. When he was unable to pay back his debts to European governments, Juarez attempted to negotiate with Britain, Spain, and France. He was able to reach an agreement with Britain and Spain, but unfortunately, the French government wasn’t as lenient. Napoleon III, the ruler of France at this time, decided to send his troops to Mexico to claim territory. In late 1861, French troops were deployed to Veracruz,  causing the Mexican president and government to retreat.

In May of 1862, the French army, led by General Charles Latrille de Lorencez, was set to attack Puebla de Los Angeles heavily, attempting to leave Mexico outnumbered. Juarez decided to take action and fight back. He rounded together a group of loyal Mexicans to fight in an army led by General Ignacio Zaragoza. Zaragoza’s makeshift troop held down the town and was prepared to launch an attack from the north side of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The battle lasted from dawn to dusk. The French army withdrew from the battle when they realized they were losing more soldiers than Mexico was. 

Although the war between France and Mexico lasted another six years, this battle marked the moment in history where Mexico began paving its way to true freedom. France withdrew from battle six years after the Battle of Puebla. 

Today, Puebla de Los Angelos has been renamed Puebla de Zaragoza in honor of the general. Mexicans and Mexican-Americans celebrate the fifth of May as the anniversary of the battle that paved the way for Mexican freedoms. 

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Lauren Gray

Wild Fyre Co. | Kansas City, MO