Americans should toast The Battle of Puebla on Cinco de Mayo

a shot of tequila sitting on the bar in a colorful setting

The Battle of Puebla is the true occasion for Cinco de Mayo rather than Mexican Independence Day, but Americans should celebrate just the same. Flickr photo.

The Battle of Puebla, which occurred on Cinco De Mayo, has been co-opted by corporate America as a marketing opportunity to sell tequila and Mexican-style food. Americans have been conditioned to believe that May 5  is Mexican Independence Day, and celebrate by taking shots and eating enchiladas. But in a way May 5 is more about debt repair than drinking cocktails. Mexicans in the state of Puebla celebrate Cinco de Mayo history as the date of the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Out-manned and outgunned, Mexican forces defeated a French army sent by Napoleon III. The Battle of Puebla has become a symbol of freedom and liberty for Mexicans.

Battle of Puebla history

If Americans really knew about the Battle of Puebla history, they would be celebrating Cinco de Mayo by expressing gratitude toward Mexico, instead of wearing funny hats and speaking Spanglish. Mexican Independence Day is not May 5, but September 16 — the day Mexico’s 10-year Independence War with Spain started in 1810.

The truth about the Battle of Puebla

Fast forward to the Battle of Puebla on Cinco de Mayo in 1862, The United States was in the middle of its Civil War. Mexico had been celebrating Mexican Independence day since 1810. But the country was still broke after a war with the United States in 1848, when it lost California and New Mexico (a vast territory that now includes Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming and Utah). The Mexican government owed France a ton of money. France thought the United States, with its expanding territory and military, was a threat. Napoleon III saw the Civil War as an opportunity to defuse that threat.

Battle of Puebla background

The Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, occurred because Napoleon III of France sent troops to Mexico under the ruse of collecting the debt. What he really wanted to do is defeat the Mexicans and have a force in place to aid the Army of the Confederacy. By ensuring that the United States would be split in two, Napoleon believed that France could hold sway over two weakened nations in North America, instead of having to deal with a single powerful one.

French defeated at Battle of Puebla

The Battle of Puebla on Cinco de Mayo 1862 pitted a ragtag Mexican force against the French Army, considered the baddest military force in the world at the time. Puebla was attacked by 6,000 French troops led by a cocky general who had no respect for the Mexicans. Not only did the Mexicans stand their ground, they chased the French all the way to the coast and defeated them.

Cinco de Mayo: reason to celebrate

The French weren’t completely ousted from Mexico until 1867, but the Battle of Puebla on Cinco de Mayo was pivotal in preserving Mexican independence. The French Army’s defeat at the Battle of Puebla on Cinco de Mayo in 1862 also prevented Napoleon III from aiding the Confederates. The Mexican army may have played a key role in helping Abraham Lincoln win the civil war and preserve the Union. A deed worthy of a toast when Americans knock back the tequila on Cinco de Mayo.


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