cinco de mayo history
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Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for “fifth of May”) celebrates the legendary Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, in which a Mexican force of 4,500 men faced 6,000 well-trained French soldiers. The battle lasted four hours and ended in a victory for the Mexican army under General Ignacio Zaragoza.
Cinco de Mayo’s history has its roots in the French Occupation of Mexico. After the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, Mexico entered a period of bankruptcy. In 1861, President Benito Juarez issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for a brief period of two years, with the promise that after this period, payments would resume.
The English, Spanish and French decided to invade Mexico and get payments by whatever means necessary. The Spanish and English eventually withdrew, but the French refused to leave. Their intention was to create an Empire in Mexico under Napoleon III. In 1862, the French army began its advance. But under General Zaragoza, the ill-equipped Mestizo and Zapotec Indians defeated the French army.Along with Mexican Independence Day on September 16, Cinco de Mayo has become a time to celebrate Mexican heritage and culture. As of 2007, U.S. Census figures gave 29.2 million as the number of U.S. residents of Mexican origin. These residents constituted 10 percent of the nation’s total population and 64 percent of the Hispanic population.