Seems every Mexican restaurant in America is featuring food specials, live music and fruity margaritas today in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. But did you know that Mexicans aren’t celebrating their Independence Day? That date is actually Sept. 16th. So what are they celebrating? Mexico’s freedom from French occupation following the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. For nearly 50 years, the French army occupied Mexico. On May 5, 1862 the Mexican army (clearly the underdog–outnumbered with poor supplies to boot), led by Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza, defeated French forces in what became known as the “Batalla de Puebla.”
Oddly enough, the holiday was created in California in 1863, not Mexico. And most of the celebrations, parties and parades take place in the United States rather than anywhere south of the border–except a few states, including Puebla where the battle took place. But here in the US, Cinco de Mayo continues to be a strong tradition for Mexican-Americans to celebrate their freedom, and a way to show their pride for their home country, their people and their history. I’ll drink to that. Cheers!