Contrary to popular belief, "Cinco de Mayo" is not Mexico's Independence Day.
In fact, "Cinco de Mayo" (May 5) is actually a regional holiday in Mexico, with the celebrations primarily limited to the state of Puebla.
The connection to Puebla involves the true meaning of the holiday, which commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces on May 5, 1862.
Heavily indebted to France by the 1860s after gaining its independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico found itself fighting a French army that was intent on empire expansion, using Mexico's debt to the French government as justification for invasion.
Upon realizing the intentions of the French, both Spain and England withdrew their support.
Although President Abraham Lincoln expressed America's sympathy for the Mexican cause, he was unable to offer any more than that, as his country was busy fighting its own civil war at the time.
As a result, Mexico was forced to defend itself against a well outfitted French army. A poorly armed and heavily outnumbered militia, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, managed to defeat the French at Puebla, stopping the French invasion of Mexico in so doing.
A regional holiday in Mexico, "Cinco de Mayo" actually bears more significance in the United States, where it is celebrated by Americans of Mexican ancestry, and is similar to the American celebrations of St. Patrick's Day and the Chinese New Year.
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