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What exactly is Cinco de Mayo?

Posted at 5:42 PM, May 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-05 18:42:05-04

Today is Cinco de Mayo, a day that’s celebrated by so many here in the United States with margaritas, beer and salsa.

But what exactly is the history behind the day?

KATC’s Dannielle Garcia went to find out more about the history of the holiday and why so many people commemorate it.

“I think it’s their Mexican patriotic holiday, something like our 4th of July,” said Rebecca Fruge, who was out with her family.

“Cinco de Mayo is basically just celebrating Mexican heritage, Mexican independence day,” said Lindsey Stocks, who was out celebrating with friends.

“The day to celebrate that the Mexican army beat the French army in the Battle of Puebla,” said Jared Price, who was also celebrating.

And that’s correct. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day, that is actually September 16. People in Mexico don’t celebrate this day like Americans do.

“It took me a little while to understand why it was such a big celebration in the US versus in Mexico,” said Gabriel Carranza, UL’s director for global engagement who is originally from Mexico.

He says seeing Americans’ infatuation with the holiday sparked his research into what exactly happened on this day.

“On May 5th, Cinco de Mayo of 1862, the confrontation starts in Puebla and to the surprise of everyone, the Mexicans defeat the French, the most powerful army in the world at that time,” he explained.

It commemorates the Battle of Puebla, the day that Mexico’s army defeated the French army which was double their size. This took place while the US was fighting their own internal battle, the Civil War.

Carranza says this is important because the French were planning to invade the US after taking on Mexico.

“Mexico’s success in this was to protect the United States from France. The plans of Napoleon was to bring the army and funding to support the confederates and defeat the union,” the professor said.

Had Mexico’s army not beat the French on this day, hundreds of years ago, the confederates could’ve won the Civil War and American history could’ve had a completely different outcome.

“In an area of the state of Louisiana, where it was represented by the confederates, we are celebrating a time that resulted in a negative position for the confederates here,” he explained.

So while many people probably didn’t know much about the holiday before this story, it’s still worth a celebration.