Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday celebrated by millions of people each year. Oddly enough, the majority of those people live in the United States instead of Mexico. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla, during which he Mexican Army overcame significant obstacles to defeat the French Army under the direction of General Ignacio Zaragoza.
On May 5, 1862, an attacking French Army battled against Mexican forces that were roughly half the size of their opponents. Despite that decided disadvantage, the Mexican Army won the battle. Mexican forces would ultimately be defeated by the French a year later, but that same year witnessed the first celebrations of Cinco de Mayo in California, where Mexican miners celebrated the heroic efforts of their countrymen a year prior.
Curiously, those 1863 celebrations would prove to be a harbinger of things to come, as Cinco de Mayo eventually became a more prominent holiday in the United States than it did in Mexico. The only major celebrations of Cinco de Mayo in Mexico, where the day is a holiday but not considered a significant one (banks and government offices remain open), take place in Puebla, though the neighboring state of Veracruz also treats the day with a greater degree of significance than elsewhere in Mexico.
Historical reenactments of the battle and parades are part of celebrations in Puebla. Celebrations in the United States are considerable, as many people, including those with no ancestral ties to Mexico, look forward to May 5 as an opportunity to celebrate Mexican culture and food as well as the many traditions that make Mexico such a unique and special place.
Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the United States bear some resemblance to the country’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, though many American St. Patrick’s Day celebrants have no connection to Ireland or the Catholic Church. Rather, the day has become an opportunity for people from various backgrounds to celebrate Irish culture, much like Cinco de Mayo marks a chance to celebrate Mexican culture.