Does anyone find it mildly amusing that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of the Mexican militia’s victory over the French?
Apparently the French were peeved that Mexico had stopped repaying a loan they owed France and took it upon themselves to invade Mexico. (You know, they say Abraham Lincoln took Mexico’s side, but he didn’t exactly do anything about it — he was kind of preoccupied fighting a war of his own).
Anyway, the Mexicans, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, defeated the invading French army in the 1862 Battle of Puebla. But France got all high and mighty about it and sent even more troops. Soon a relation of Napoleon III’s, Archduke Maximillian of Austria, had taken over Mexico City.
Mexico was ruled by France until 1867. Mexico eventually shot and killed Maximillian, and yes, they did keep his bloodied shirt for museum display.
While Cinco de Mayo has been recognized continuously in California since 1863, it isn’t widely celebrated within Mexico.
And no, Cinco de Mayo is not the Mexican version of Fourth of July. That occurs on September 16th. This year (2010), Mexico’s independence day will be an even bigger celebration, since it marks 200 years since Mexico’s 1810 independence from Spain, and 100 years since the Mexican revolution of 1910.