In the United States, more beer is sold for Cinco de Mayo than for St. Patrick’s Day or the Super Bowl. Americans celebrate the day with parties all across the country, but what exactly is everyone celebrating?
The first common misperception to clear up — Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. That’s on September 16. It is instead an observation of the Mexican victory over the French in the battle of Puebla.
In 1861, Mexico defaulted on the debt it owed to several European countries, including France, which took military action in response. The subsequent French-Mexican War lasted six years. Mexico had an early military victory that grew to carry symbolic significance. That victory? May 5, 1862— the Battle of Puebla. The well-armed French force of 6,000 troops invaded the Mexican town of Puebla, but could not outlast Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza and a force just one third the size. That David vs. Goliath victory is the story behind Cinco de Mayo.