Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a holiday so popular in the United States that it draws larger crowds here than it does in Mexico. Half a million people turn out for the annual celebration in Los Angeles alone, but as author Valerie Menard puts it in The Latino Holiday Book, “Exactly what is everybody celebrating?”
There are teachers all over Texas – for example – still telling students that this is Mexican Independence Day – which is not true. So what is Cinco De Mayo?
It’s the day that a rag-tag army of Mexicans, many carrying only machetes, stood up to what was then the world’s finest army – and won! The Mexicans were just as surprised as the French, but the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, gave them the confidence they needed to eventually oust the invaders and the imported puppet emperor to take their country back.