Every year on May 5, revelers gather to celebrate Mexican-American culture by sipping margaritas and chowing down on tacos. But besides good food and drink, what are they really celebrating?
 
Many mistakenly believe May 5 marks Mexican independence from Spain, but that’s celebrated on Sept. 16, which was the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence. Cinco de Mayo actually memorializes a Mexican victory at the famed Battle of Puebla in 1862 during the French intervention in Mexico, sparked when Mexico’s president, Benito Juárez, suspended interest payments on Mexico’s debt to foreign countries.
 
Led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, Mexican forces pushed back French soldiers during an attack near the city of Puebla. While it took another five years for the intervention to end, the battle is considered a very important moral triumph for the Mexican troops. In fact, four days after the battle, President Juárez declared that May 5 would be a national holiday. And while it’s not currently a federal holiday in Mexico, it is recognized as a day to celebrate Mexican heritage in places like the United States.