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Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is a date of great importance for the Mexican and Chicano  communities. It marks the victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla. Althought the Mexican army was eventually  defeated, the "Batalla de Puebla" came to represent a symbol of Mexican  unity and patriotism. With this victory, Mexico demonstrated to the  world that Mexico and all of Latin America were willing to defend  themselves of any foreign intervention. Especially those from  imperialist states bent on world conquest.

Cinco de Mayo's history has its roots in the French Occupation of Mexico. The  French occupation took shape in the aftermath of the Mexican-American  War of 1846-48. With this war, Mexico entered a period of national  crisis during the 1850's. Years of not only fighting the Americans but  also a Civil War, had left Mexico devastated and bankrupt. On July 17,  1861, President Benito Juarez issued a moratorium in which all foreign  debt payments would be suspended for a brief period of two years, with  the promise that after this period, payments would resume.

The  English, Spanish and French refused to allow president Juarez to do  this, and instead decided to invade Mexico and get payments by whatever  means necessary. The Spanish and English eventually withdrew, but the  French refused to leave. Their intention was to create an Empire in  Mexico under Napoleon III. Some have argued that the true French  occupation was a response to growing American power and to the Monroe  Doctrine (America for the Americans). Napoleon III believed that if the  United States was allowed to prosper indescriminantly, it would  eventually become a power in and of itself.

In 1862, the French army began its advance. Under General Ignacio Zaragoza,  5,000 ill-equipped Mestizo and Zapotec Indians defeated the French army  in what came to be known as the "Batalla de Puebla" on the fifth of May.

In the  United States, the "Batalla de Puebla" came to be known as simply "5 de  Mayo" and unfortunately, many people wrongly equate it with Mexican  Independence which was on September 16, 1810, nearly a fifty year  difference. Over, the years Cinco de Mayo has become very commercialized and many people see this holiday as a time for fun and dance. Oddly  enough, Cinco de Mayo has become more of Chicano holiday than a Mexican  one. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated on a much larger scale here in the  United States than it is in Mexico. People of Mexican descent in the  United States celebrate this significant day by having parades, mariachi music, folklorico dancing and other types of festive activities.

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