It’s a date, and celebration, familiar to Puebloans for numerous reasons ...
Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. Mexico celebrates its independence on Sept. 16 because, on that date in 1810, Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla proclaimed the beginning of the revolution against Spain.
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla. On May 5, 1862, Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza and a small group of soldiers defeated the French in the town of Puebla. It wasn’t a major tactical victory, but it became a symbol of courage and cultural pride.
France intended to establish its dominance in Mexico and then turn its attention to the United States by offering support to the Confederacy in the Civil War. Because of stronger Mexican resistance after the Battle of Puebla, that plan never materialized.
In California, the battle inspired Mexicans who immigrated to the United States to organize Juntas Patrioticas Mexicanas. These community organizations supported the Mexican president’s battle against the French and President Lincoln’s fight against the Confederacy.
Cinco de Mayo became identified with the U.S. Chicano rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s.
In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is an official holiday in Puebla but isn’t a major celebration elsewhere. Observance consists primarily of speeches and battle re-enactments.
In the United States, the holiday became a celebration of Mexican culture with a greater focus on festivals, music, food – and yes, beer.
Gen. Zaragoza was born in La Bahía del Espíritu Santo, now known as Goliad, in Texas. He died a few months after the Battle of Puebla. The General Zaragoza State Historic Site, built in 1960 near Goliad, was established in his honor.
In 2005, Congress passed a continuing resolution asking the president to issue a proclamation that called upon Americans to observe Cinco de Mayo with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.”
Puebla is both a city and state in Mexico.
The city of Puebla:
- Is one of Pueblo’s Sister Cities
- Is the fourth-largest city in Mexico, with a population of more than 3 million
- Is the home of a university – Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (Meritorious Autonomous University of Puebla) – that was founded in 1578
The state of Puebla:
- Is the location of Popocatépetl Volcano, an active volcano inside a national park
- Is site of Tlachihualtépetl – the Cholula Pyramid – which has the largest base in the world and dates to 300 B.C.
- Is home to the city of Chignahuapan, which produces more than 70 million handmade Christmas ornaments every year
Sources: CNN, Parade, geo-mexico.com, Reader’s Digest, Snopes, Time magazine, pueblosistercities.org, visitmexico.com, congress.gov, U.S. State Department Office of the Historian