The 5th of May is a celebration at El Chubby’s Fresh Mexican Grill in Aurora, but do you know these 7 facts about Cinco de Mayo? Many people in the United States think Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s independence Day, but it’s not. The 5th of May is a celebration of the undermanned Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla.
In 1862, Mexico had just ended a civil war. The War of the Reform started in 1858 after the liberal faction drafted a new constitution aimed at reducing the power and influence of the Catholic Church. It grew into a war and Mexico had two governments. The conservative government was in Mexico City led by General Félix Zuloaga. The liberal government was in Veracruz with its leader Benito Juárez, president of the supreme court. The Pope supported the conservatives, who won a series of smaller battles, but the liberal faction controlled the ports and so was able to better equip their troops. In 1861, the liberals won by taking back Mexico City. Although the war was over, Mexico was not united and the conservative group began planning their revenge.
Mexico didn’t pay their debts, so European troops invaded.
After the Mexican civil war was over, Mexico had no money and owed millions of dollars to foreign countries. Mexico sold expropriated church property but they still didn’t have enough money. In desperation, the newly elected President Juárez stopped payments of all foreign debt for two years. This was not received well in Spain, France, and Great Britain. Their troops arrived in Veracruz in late 1861. Although Spain and Great Britain retreated, but about 6,000 French troops forced their way inland toward the Mexican capital, with the support of Mexico’s conservative leaders.
In 1862, France had military strength when it attacked Mexico at the Battle of Puebla.
The French army was one of the best in the world at that time. They got to Puebla on May 4, after a series of victories in Southeast Asia and Northern Africa. They had a lot of firepower, which included long-range rifles. The Mexicans’ muskets couldn’t compare. But France was so sure of their might that they didn’t prepare their artillery. The next day, on May 5, the French advanced on the Mexican troops with screeching bugle calls and bayonet maneuvers. After fighting all day and failing three times with uphill charges, France was forced to withdraw because of heavy casualties. Mexico had won the Battle of Puebla.
France lost the Battle of Puebla but won the war.
Mexico’s Puebla victory could not ultimately stop France’s assault. France’s Emperor Napoleon III ordered nearly 30,000 more troops to Mexico. With more troops and a new commander, they overtook Puebla and Mexico City. Mexico’s Juárez and his troops fled to the mountains to conduct guerilla operations. Napoleon III installed Ferdinand Maximilian von Habsburg as Mexico’s new ruler.
France’s control of Mexico didn’t last long.
Back in France, Napoleon III became involved in other battles elsewhere. Now the U.S. officials were exerting diplomatic pressure on the French and supplying weapons to the ousted Juárez’s army. With his attention turned to these other conflicts and his money getting thinner, Napoleon III decided in 1866 to end his occupation of Mexico. Maximilian tried to continue the fight but had to give up when his troops were routed at Querétaro. On June 19, 1867, he and his top generals were killed by a firing squad.
Díaz’s military leadership began at the Battle of Puebla.
Porfirio Díaz, a cavalry commander at Puebla, outflanked the French on their third charge and forced them to retreat during the May 5th battle. He went on to win battles at Oaxaca and elsewhere. After the war was over he became frustrated with Juárez. Diaz even ran unsuccessfully against him for president. Diaz attempted some coups, and finally took control in 1876. Except for a brief break, Diaz was Mexico’s president until 1911, when he was finally deposed by the Mexican Revolution.
The United States celebrates Cinco de Mayo more than Mexico.
After the Battle of Puebla, Juárez declared Cinco de Mayo a holiday. But most Mexicans prefer the celebration of September 16 as Mexican Independence Day. In the U.S. during the 1960’s Chicano activists celebrated Cinco de Mayo to honor their history and culture. The U.S. still celebrates Cinco de Mayo with parties, parades and amazing food, particularly in cities with large Hispanic populations, like Los Angeles.
Now that you know the 7 facts about Cinco de Mayo, come celebrate the victory of the Battle of Puebla at El Chubby’s Fresh Mexican Grill in Aurora. Come taste our delicious Mexican food. Since 1990, our family has been creating fresh, made to order dishes using recipes passed down through the generations. Dine with us or come through our drive-thru and let us serve up an authentic Mexican dinner just the way you like it.