But why? Most Americans have no idea that Cinco de Mayo celebrates the ill equipped Mexican victory over the French army in Puebla on May 5, 1862. The US was mired in another war at that time and most Americans’ grasp of other countries histories is pretty minimal. Despite a modern-day reputation for debauchery, Cinco de Mayo was originally a celebration of military valor and anti-colonialism—-perhaps not the kind of holiday best summed up by a piñata and a margarita.
Puebla was established by the Spanish in 1531 on the main route between the port of Veracruz and Mexico City. Puebla has an appearance of an European city since it was built by Spanish designers rather than having it built on an existing city.
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Many think that 5 de Mayo represents the Mexican independence day, but actual Mexican independence day is September 16. On May 5, 1862 a small troop of ill-equipped Mexican soldiers defeated a much stronger French army, and it marked the first major victory by the Mexicans. Even though they lost the city to the French the very next year, they still celebrate the bravery of their forefathers and the battle fought on May 5, 1862. It was a quintessential victory for the underdog…and everyone loves an underdog.