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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Bell

What is the true meaning behind cinco de mayo?

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Andrew Bell is a medical translator working from Spanish, Portuguese and Catalan to English trading under the name Bell Johnson Translations. You can connect with him by using the following links:



Twitter: @belljohnsonTR

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You’d be forgiven for thinking that cinco de mayo is Mexico's Independence Day, but this isn’t actually the case, as Mexicans celebrate Independence Day on 16th September. Cinco de mayo isn’t even a national holiday in Mexico and is only really celebrated in the State of Puebla, as this day marks Mexico’s victory in the Battle of Puebla.

The story of cinco de mayo

The story goes back the Reform War in Mexico which left the country in economic turmoil. President Juárez, in an attempt to save the economy, suspended payments on the country’s debts to foreign powers. Thus, France, Britain and Spain sent their troops to Mexico to protect their economic interests, however violence was avoided as the three European powers were able to come to an agreement with Mexico through diplomatic negotiations. Unfortunately, France didn’t honour said agreement and decided to take military action against Mexico.

At 9am on 5th May 1862, the battle of Puebla commenced. Despite the military superiority of the French, the Mexican troops were able to hold back the aggressors on two occasions prompting the French army to retreat from the city.

Now every year on 5th May, the State of Puebla celebrates this victory where humble Mexicans triumphed over one of the global superpowers of the time.

Modern day celebrations

If you’re lucky enough to be in Puebla on 5th May, you’ll be able to attend parades commemorating Mexico’s victory. The biggest parade by far is in the city of Puebla, which is the capital city of the state with which it shares its name, and which also happens to be where the battle took place. On this day, students, police officers and soldiers among others, can be seen marching through the city in full uniform in a parade that passes by the site of the battle, and also the aptly named cinco de mayo boulevard.

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