Cinco De Mayo traditional dancing...one of the many festivities of Cinco De Mayo!!!!

Cinco De Mayo (Spanish for “fifth of May”) is a regional holiday in Mexico, primarily celebrated in the state of Puebla, with some limited recognition in other parts of Mexico. The holiday commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín.

Cinco de Mayo is not “an obligatory federal holiday” in Mexico, but rather a holiday that can be observed voluntarily.While Cinco de Mayo has limited significance nationwide in Mexico, the date is observed in the United States (also voluntarily) and other locations around the world as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day, which actually is September 16, the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico.

Cinco de Mayo is not “an obligatory federal holiday” in Mexico, but rather a holiday that can be observed voluntarily. While Cinco de Mayo has limited significance nationwide in Mexico, the date is observed in the United States (also voluntarily) and other locations around the world as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day, which actually is September 16, the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico.

History

In 1861, Benito Juarez stopped making interest payments to countries that Mexico owed money to. In response, France  attacked Mexico to force payment of this debt. France decided that it would try to take over and occupy Mexico. France was successful at first in its invasion; however, on May 5, 1862, at the city of Puebla, Mexican forces were able to defeat an attack by the larger French army. In the Battle of Puebla, the Mexicans were led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín. Although the Mexican army was victorious over the French at Puebla, the victory only delayed the French advance on Mexico City. A year later, the French occupied Mexico. The French occupying forces placed Maximilian I, Emperor of Mexico on the throne of Mexico in 1864. The French, under pressure from the United States, eventually withdrew in 1866-1867. Maximilian was deposed by President Benito Juarez and executed, five years after the Battle of Puebla.

The Battle of Puebla was important for at least two reasons. First, although considerably outnumbered, the Mexicans defeated a much better-equipped French army. “This battle was significant in that the 4,000 Mexican soldiers were greatly outnumbered by the well-equipped French army of 8,000 that had not been defeated for almost 50 years.”  Second, it was significant because since the Battle of Puebla no country in the Americas has been invaded by an army from another continent.

Observances

Mexico:

Cinco de Mayo is a regional holiday limited primarily to the state of Puebla. There is some limited recognition of the holiday in other parts of the country. For the most part the celebrations combine food, music, and dancing.

United States

In the United States Cinco de Mayo has taken on a significance beyond that in Mexico. The date is perhaps best recognized in the United States as a date to celebrate the culture and experiences of Americans of Mexican ancestry, much as St. Patrick’s Day, Oktoberfest, and the Chinese New Year are used to celebrate those of Irish, German, and Chinese ancestry respectively. Similar to those holidays, Cinco de Mayo is observed by many Americans regardless of ethnic origin. Celebrations tend to draw both from traditional Mexican symbols, such as the Virgen de Guadalupe, and from prominent figures of Mexican descent in the United States, including César Chávez. To celebrate, many display Cinco de Mayo banners while school districts hold special events to educate pupils about its historical significance. Special events and celebrations highlight Mexican culture, especially in its music and regional dancing. Examples include baile folklórico and mariachi demonstrations held annually at the Plaza del Pueblo de Los Angeles, near Olvera Street. Commercial interests in the United States have capitalized on the celebration, advertising Mexican products and services, with an emphasis on beverages, foods, and music.

Elsewhere

Events tied to Cinco de Mayo also occur outside Mexico and the United States. For example, a sky-diving club near Vancouver, Canada holds a Cinco de Mayo skydiving event. In the Cayman Islands, in the Caribbean, there is an annual Cinco de Mayo air guitar competition. As far away as the island of Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, revelers are encouraged to drink Mexican beer on May 5.

Courtesy of Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinco_de_Mayo.