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What is Cinco de Mayo?

Do you know why you are celebrating Cinco

Do you know why you are celebrating Cinco de Mayo? It's not just about the tacos and tequila. Photo Credit: iStock

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Before you reach for the tacos, do you actually know what you're celebrating?

Here's what you should know about the history of the tequila-filled holiday.

It’s not connected to the Fourth of July. 

Fourth of July is synonymous with Independence Day in America, but the day referred to as Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May, is not Independence Day in Mexico.

It celebrates an unlikely victory. 

El Día de la Batalla de Puebla, or the Day of the Battle of Puebla, is colloquially known as Cinco de Mayo, the day it is celebrated. This day recognizes an unlikely military victory by the Mexican army.

In 1862, during the French invasion of Mexico, an ill-equipped, 4,000-person Mexican army, which was greatly outnumbered by the French, fought the Batalla de Puebla on the fifth of May -- and won.

On May 9 that same year, Mexican President Benito Juárez declared May 5 a national holiday, commemorating the unexpected win.

Soon afterward, the French took control of Mexico City and remained in power until 1867. With the end of the American Civil War, the United States assisted Mexico in the later part of the decade to help free the country from European military control.

It’s bigger in America than it is in Mexico. 

Cinco de Mayo has since transformed into a Mexican-American holiday, rising in popularity in the 1960s in California. The holiday is acknowledged in the state of Puebla, where the battle occurred, with parades and other celebrations. But throughout the majority of Mexico, it’s business as usual. 

There's more to it than tacos and fiestas. 

Now you know. So while you're enjoying your margaritas on the cheap and great Mexican food in NYC this Cinco de Mayo, remember what the day is really all about.


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