Posted on May 03 2021
By Ali Harford
Mexico, 1862. It’s the middle of the Franco-Mexican war, which started when the President of Mexico, Benito Juárez, missed debt payments to the European governments. France, ruled by Napoleon III, sent its armies to Veracruz in 1861 to demand payment. Napoleon saw the war as an opportunity to expand the French empire.
May 5. French troops under General Charles Latrille de Lorencez march toward Veracruz. They set out to attack Puebla de Los Angeles, a small central town—but they met Juárez’s army, a vastly outnumbered crew of Mexican men led by General Ignacio Zaragoza. The battle lasted for the entire day, and though they were poorly equipped, the Mexican army claimed the victory.
Cinco de Mayo, or “Fifth of May,” celebrates that triumph of Mexico. In the U.S., the holiday is a celebration of Mexican culture, usually with parades and Mexican foods. In Mexico, the holiday isn’t as big a deal—except in Puebla, now called Puebla de Zaragoza, where there’s a parade and mock battle.