Many people mistakenly believe that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexico’s independence– an event that is actually commemorated every September 16th. Here’s a quick history lesson to set the record straight.
After the Mexican-American and the Reform wars of the mid-19th century, Mexico was mostly bankrupt, so the nation put forth a two-year moratorium on payments of all of its foreign debts. A trio of European powers–Spain, England and France–sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand payments. While Spain and England ultimately negotiated with Mexico, France seized the opportunity to attempt to carve another piece of their empire out of Mexican territory.
The result was a May 5th, 1862 battle in the east-central state of Puebla, with heavily armed French forces outnumbering their poorly supplied Mexican opponents. Despite these odds, Mexico decisively won under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, a Texas-born Mexican. This created a sense of national pride still commemorated today, especially because the seemingly omnipotent French army had not suffered a defeat in the five decades prior.
Some historians surmise that if the French had won the Battle of Puebla, their stronghold in the region could have led to the European nation interfering in the American Civil War by aiding Confederate forces. This could have meant a very different outcome in that conflict, thereby changing the course of U.S. history.
Over a century and a half later, Cinco de Mayo has become an annual celebration filled with music, dance, song and plenty of regional food. The festival is held throughout the United States and Mexico, the latter primarily in Puebla.
On Saturday, San Francisco’s Cinco de Mayo, a true feast for the senses, was held in the Mission on Valencia between 21st and 24th streets. Mission Neighborhood Centers, a valued community partner, hosted its 11th annual Cinco de Mayo celebration, with a good time being had by all. The Mission Promise Neighborhood had a resource table, availing community members of free services for family economic success.
Cinco de Mayo still helps define a community’s strength.