(Mostly an encore post, from 2009, with updates)
You thought Cinco de Mayo was Independence Day for Mexico?
No, it’s not.
History.com has a nice explanation, with a nice little video.
NPR’s blogs explain: “Cinco de Mayo: Whose holiday is it, anyway?”
“It ain’t about the Margaritas: The real meaning of Cinco de Mayo,” at NPR’s The Takeaway.
Perhaps the U.S. should celebrate the day, too, at least in those states who were not in the old Confederacy. On May 5, 1862, Mexicans under the command of 33 year old Commander General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín stopped the quick advance of superior French forces trying to invade Mexico to take it over, at the Battle of Puebla. While France did eventually defeat Mexican forces (after getting 30,000 men in reinforcements), the spirit of May 5 inspired Mexicans to continue to fight for freedom. And ultimately, Mexican forces overpowered and captured the French forces and Emperor Maximilian, who was executed.
Thus ended a great hope for the Confederacy, that a French-supported Mexican Army would lend aid to the Confederates in their struggle to secede from the Union.
It is one of the great what-ifs of history: What if France had kept Mexico, and what if French-led Mexican forces backed up the Confederate Army, as Confederates and the French hoped?
One thing is rather sure: Had that happened, and had the Confederacy been successful, we wouldn’t be celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Texas today.
What do the scholars of Lincoln have to add?
Mexican Independence Day is September 16.
Update: A reader sends a note that Seguin was a Texan. So the Mexican hero of the Battle of Puebla was a Texan. You couldn’t make this stuff up — real history is always more interesting than fiction.