Contrary to popular belief in the United States, today is NOT Mexican independence day. As a Canadian that works in the tourism industry here in Puerto Vallarta over my 15 years of residency i have been approached by many Americans who while vacationing are confused and perplexed by the lack of enthusiasm amongst us locals on this day and during their visit want to know “where are the 5 de Mayo celebrations happening???”
Regardless, do we really need an excuse to enjoy a tequila? i know i don’t!
While sipping your margaritas please read this!
In 1861, Mexican President Benito Juárez declared that Mexico was suspending the payment of all its foreign debt for two years due to a fiscal crisis, and even though Juárez had said payments would resume in 1863, Great Britain, France and Spain were not satisfied. The British and Spanish backed off, but France insisted on using force to secure its debt payments. French Emperor Napoleon III named a relative of his, Archduke Maximillian of Austria, as ruler of Mexico.
As the French Army was marching toward Mexico City, they encountered stiff resistance. On May 5, 1862, General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated the French Army in the Battle of Puebla. The Mexican victory was a surprise, for the French Army was and larger and better equipped. Mexico won this battle. But facing Mexican resistance and American pressure, the French withdrew its troops in 1867. For the leader of France, Napolean III, the battle at Puebla was an attempt at not only spreading his empire but at conquering a key Mexican access point to the U.S., where he intended to lend support to the confederate army during the Civil War in an effort to keep the U.S. divided and consequently less powerful.
Abraham Lincoln sympathized with the Mexican cause during the French occupation but was unable to lend direct support to the nation due to the U.S. Civil War, which was taking place at the same time. When the Civil War finally ended, the U.S. forced France to withdraw its troops from Mexico and their empire collapsed.
Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday in Mexico and is a relatively minor holiday outside of Puebla, Veracruz and the United States. In Puebla and Veracruz, however, Cinco de Mayo is a very important state holiday celebrated with parades, festivals and reenactments.
Because of the fact that president Juarez had a hand in helping maintain the concept of the United States as a single nation, it was after the Civil War that Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, approved military aid to Juarez’ supporters, which ultimately was what led to the abdication and eventual capture and execution of Maximilian in 1867.
Cinco de Mayo is a time to recognize the bravery of those who fight against oppression.