May 5, 1862 was a day of celebration for Mexican soldiers when the Mexican Army defeated France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. Today, the fifth of May is celebrated across the United States as Cinco de Mayo.
Many confuse Cinco de Mayo with Mexican Independence Day, but it is not. At the time of this battle, Mexico was in financial ruin and the newly elected President Benito Juarez had defaulted on debt to European countries. France, Spain and Britain all sent military forces to demand repayment. Mexico was able to negotiate with Britain and Spain; however, Charles-Louis Napoleon Bonaparte III, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte and the first president of France, was the ruler of France and he saw the situation as an opportunity for France to seize Mexico to expand French territory.
The battle of Puebla on the fifth of May 158 years ago, was not a strategic win for Mexico. It was just one battle. Napoleon’s general sent 6000 trained soldiers to Puebla and President Juarez round up 2000 loyal men from the countryside, but by the time the battle was finished, nearly 500 Frenchmen were dead, and less than 100 Mexicans had lost their lives. This victory became a symbol of hope which fed the Mexican resistance movement until France finally withdrew and today, Cinco de Mayo serves as a day to remember and celebrate the culture and heritage of Mexico.