Saturday, May 18, 2024

Cinco De Mayo by Nancy J. Farrier

Photo by dbking, Wikimedia Commons

I grew up in the Midwest and don’t remember hearing anything about Cinco de Mayo until I was an adult living in the Southwest. I was fascinated with the celebration: the food, the costumes, the dancing, the atmosphere. But I still didn’t understand why Cinco de Mayo was celebrated. I thought I would use this post to share a bit of the history behind the holiday.


Benito Juarez
By J Mndz
Wikimedia Commons 

In 1861, Benito Juarez, Mexico’s President, halted payments of foreign debts. This may sound like a severe step to take, but Mexico had been struggling financially and needed a way to get back on their feet. They had faced many battles that had worn down their country. Juarez wanted to give them a chance to get their footing.


The response was swift – or as swift as it could be then. Three countries that Mexico owed, Britain, Spain, and France, sent ships carrying troops to Veracruz to reinstate the payment system. After negotiations, Spain and Britain were satisfied and withdrew their troops. 


Puebla Cathedral
By Diego Delso
Wikimedia Commons

France, under the rule of Napoleon III, decided to take over the struggling country and had their troops invade. The French troops numbering 6,000 armed with weapons superior to anything Mexico had, marched on the small town of Puebla in Central Mexico. They were led by General Charles Latrille de Lorencez. 


General Ignacio Zaragoza gathered what troops he could and put up fortifications around the town. Lorencez approached with heavy artillery the Mexican army didn’t have.


Cinco de Mayo performers in traditional dress
By S Pakhrin, Wikimedia Commons

The battle lasted one day. The French lost over 500 soldiers, while the Mexican army lost less than 100. The French changed their strategy and went on to capture Mexico City and put Emperor Maximillian I as the head of the country. His rule lasted until 1866, when, with the help of the USA, Mexico overthrew and executed Maximillian I and reinstated Benito Juarez.


The battle of Puebla wasn’t a turning point in the war, but the hope given by this small town’s defeat of the French army carried through the next few years. With Juarez back in charge, he declared that the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla would be commemorated every year on May 5th


Mole Poblano from Puebla
By Jay Galvin, Wikimedia Commons

This holiday is not celebrated in most of Mexico, but is in the city of Puebla. In the United States those with Mexican heritage use May 5th as a way to celebrate who they are. That is why they wear traditional dress and eat certain foods. One of the foods that is found at Cinco de Mayo is Mole Poblano. Mole (mo-lay) is a dark chocolate sauce used over pork or chicken and very popular in Mexico and in the USA.


Maybe people believe Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day, but that is not so. Their Independence Day is celebrated on September 16th, remembering Mexico’s defeat of Spain. Cinco de Mayo is more of a cultural heritage celebration.


Have you ever attended a Cinco de Mayo celebration? I’ve shared pictures here of the dancers in the traditional dress. They are beautiful to watch. If you get the chance, watch the dancers, try the food, and enjoy the learning experience. 

Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning, best-selling author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats and dog, and spend time with her family. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website:


  1. Three of my in-loves are of Mexican descent. There is so much delicious food. They usually celebrate with a family picnic. In Northern Illinois, there is a large population of Mexican-Americans. And several dance troupes that perform at various functions and family celebrations throughout the year. I had no idea Cinco de Mayo wasn't Mexican Independence Day. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Yes, I have some in-loves of Mexican descent. I love the dancing and music. It was fun finding out the history behind the holiday.

  2. I did not know the history behind this! I would go out to a Mexican restaurant with friends on May 5th, it was an excuse for another get-together. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I love that you get together with friends like that and share Mexican food on Cinco de Mayo. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Thank you for posting today. When I looked this holiday up a few years ago, I read that it is mostly a commercial holiday promoting the foods etc. I'm glad there is some kind of historic tie.

    1. Connie, I enjoyed finding out about the historical tie and the hope this town gave their people. Thanks for reading.