Cinco de Mayo is a day where thousands of Muricans don sombreros and drink tequila and Mexican beer.
But ask them what they are celebrating and most wouldn’t have a clue.
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of the Mexican army over a far larger French force in the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862.
France was invading Mexico because Mexico owed France money. Mexico had borrowed enormous amounts from Europe during the Mexican-American War from 1846-8 and in a civil war from 1858-61. By 1862 it was impossible for the government to make timely payments on the loans without starving the country, and Mexican president Benito Juárez declared that all payments on foreign debt would be suspended for two years.
The French’s first attempt was successful: they captured the city of Campeche on February 27, 1862.
But, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, the Mexican army of just 4,000 men, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín, trounced the French army just a few months later.
The Battle of Puebla was important for several reasons. First, although outnumbered, the Mexicans defeated a much better-equipped French army. Second, since the Battle of Puebla, no country in the Americas has subsequently been invaded by any other European military force.
But most importantly, if Mexico had not defeated the French, France would have given aid via an overland route through Texas to the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War by-passing the Union blockade of southern ports. This would have allowed the South to fight the North to a standstill. If they had, then the United States might have become two separate countries, the USA and the CSA.
So, all you Vietnamese, Iraqis, terrorists, and commies, all of you who hate American consumerism and imperialism, well, you can blame the Mexicans.