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The Real Story of Cinco de Mayo

And the best way to celebrate it.

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.

Here's one of the many beautiful churches in Puebla, Mexico. If you’re looking for a new way to honor the day, consider grabbing the next flight there. Two hours southeast of Mexico City, Puebla is known for much more than its role in the Cinco de Mayo origin story. Here are ten things not to miss when you’re there. SusanMajaura Here's one of the many beautiful churches in Puebla, Mexico. If you’re looking for a new way to honor the day, consider grabbing the next flight there. Two hours southeast of Mexico City, Puebla is known for much more than its role in the Cinco de Mayo origin story. Here are ten things not to miss when you’re there. Talavera Pottery JannHuizenga Talavera Pottery The ceramics style originated in Puebla in the 1600s. Temple of San Francisco Acatepec cubanman Temple of San Francisco Acatepec Covered in talavera tiles, the colorful church isn't to be missed. Santuario de Nuestra Senora de los Remedios Christian Kober Santuario de Nuestra Senora de los Remedios Just outside the city of Puebla, this historic church sits atop a pyramid. Mole sbossert Mole The savory and spicy chocolate sauce is a poblano specialty. Catedral de Puebla Ignativss Catedral de Puebla At 226 feet apiece, the twin bell towers on this cathedral are the tallest in Mexico.
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Chicchan diegograndi The Views of Popocatepetl Volcano GARDEL Bertrand / hemis.fr The Views of Popocatepetl Volcano Serene between eruptions, this volcano is still active.
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arielcione elevationare The Colorful Architecture robertcicchetti The Colorful Architecture Colonial and pre-columbian, baroque and modern, the buildings of Puebla carry its long history in their designs. The Quetzal Folk Dance Julian Herbert/Getty Images The Quetzal Folk Dance The dance predates Spanish colonization and is named for the quetzal— a bird sacred to the Maya people. The Incredible Street Food Jacobo Zanella The Incredible Street Food Cemitas, empanadas, elotes and more The Annual Reenactment of the Battle of Puebla ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images The Annual Reenactment of the Battle of Puebla Don’t miss it on May 5 each year!