Cinco de Mayo, which means “the fifth mayonnaise” — er, wait, no — which means “the fifth of May” is an international celebration and about as big as a fiesta as it gets at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. After all, we are a Mexican food restaurant at our core, so celebrating Cinco de Mayo is only natural.
Now when people think of Cinco de Mayo, they probably think of margaritas, sombreros, Mexican flags, ponchos and ice-cold cervezas. They wouldn’t be wrong to think those thoughts. But like the Easter eggs on Easter and presents under the tree at Christmas, there’s a lot more to a holiday than meets the eye.
Traditions are all well and fine, but sometimes it’s nice to take a peek into the history books and understand a little bit more about what we’re celebrating. For example, did you know Cinco de Mayo is not actually the same as the Mexican Independence Day? (That’s actually on September 16.) See, you’re learning already, amigo.
But there’s more to the story than that. So what exactly are we celebrating on the fifth of the May?
In 1861, a Mexican politician by the name of Benito Juárez took over as president of the country, which at the time owed a lot of dinero to its friends in Europe. So like good neighbors, France, Britain and Spain were there with, um, well, naval forces demanding reimbursement. Britain and Spain eventually negotiated with Mexico and went back home, but France, which was ruled by Napoleon III at the time, wasn’t having it.
The French saw this as the perfect opportunity to carve out some of that sweet Mexican land for themselves. In late 1861, a large French fleet invaded Veracruz, driving President Juárez and his compadres out of the city. Led by General Charles Latrille de Lorencez, an army of 6,000 French troops then marched toward the small town of Puebla de Los Angeles. Like a scene from an old Western movie, President Juárez rounded up 2,000 loyal misfits and sent them to defend Puebla. Led by Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza, the greatly outnumbered and inadequately supplied Mexicans got to the town ready for a showdown.
Lorencez and his superior troops stormed the city of Puebla from the north on May 5, 1862. The battle lasted all day but the Mexican troops held their own, eventually sending the French soldiers into retreat. Final casualties: France – 500; Mexico – less than 100.
Though this wasn’t the battle that won the war, it became symbolic to the Mexican government, allowing it to bolster its resistance movement. Six years later, with the help of its American friends up north, Mexico finally ousted the French troops once and for all.
So there you have it. It’s a wonderful day to celebrate Mexican heritage, culture and, of course, tacos. Come toast with us at your local Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and do it up right.
Viva la Mexico!