Cinco de Mayo

I hope by now you know that Cozumel is in Mexico. If you didn’t, I’m telling you now, Cozumel is in Mexico. You’re welcome. I’m so glad we have that straight now. Whew I feel better about that.

Now that we are all on the same page, let’s discuss Mexico a little bit. First off, why would we be discussing Mexico on a site about SCUBA diving? Well, that would be because we spend a lot of time diving in the pretty blue waters of Cozumel and I thought it would be fun every so often to look at some cultural things of the countries that we’re diving in.

Today is Cinco de Mayo. With that knowledge, first off Feliz Cinco de Mayo. Second off, let’s kick this series off with a look into the Mexican history of Cinco de Mayo.

First off, Cinco is Spanish for 5. Mayo is Spanish for May. So the Fifth of May. Don’t go try to translate Fifth of May though because it gives you a different word for fifth. Keep that in mind J. The United States looks at Cinco de Mayo with a different meaning than the Mexican’s look at this same holiday.

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that celebrates the date of the Mexican army’s victory in 1862 over the French army at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). This tends to be a minor holiday in Mexico.

Causes of the Franco-Mexican War.

A Lawyer, Benito Juarez, who as a member of the indigenous Zapotec tribe was elected as the president of Mexico. After an internal strife, the country was in financial crisis and had to default on payments to the European Government.

France, Britain, and Spain then sent their naval forces to Veracruz, Mexico, demanding repayment. Mexico was able to negotiate with Britain and Spain so they withdrew forces.

France, however, saw an opportunity to overtake Mexico and carve a new empire out of the Mexican territory. In late 1861, France stormed Veracruz, driving President Juarez and his government to retreat.

The Battle of Puebla

6,000 French troops were certain they could quickly and easily overtake the Mexican army, set out for Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico. President Juarez relocated to new heardquarters, and rounded up 2,000 loyal men, many of them either indigenous Mexicans or of mixed ancestory, and sent them to Puebla.

Texas-born general led the poorly supplied and outnumbered Mexicans in to town for the French assult. The French general took his army in on May 5, 1862 for an attack on the city of Puebla.

The battle lasted from daybreak to early evening when the French finally treated. The French lost 500 soldiers to the Mexican’s 100 soldiers.

While this victory wasn’t a strategic win in the overall war against France, the success of the Battle of Puebla on the fifth of May represented a great symbolic victory for the Mexican Government. In 1867, thanks in part to military support and political pressure from the United States, which had finally finished with the Civil War, France withdrew.

Puebla de Los Angeles was renamed for General Zaragoza, Texas native who led the victory of the Mexican army in Puebla, who died of typhoid fever months after his historic triumph.

Cinco de Mayo in Mexico

Predominantly the celebration of Cinco de Mayo takes place in Puebla, but other parts of the country also partake in the celebration.


  • Military parades
  • Recreations of the Battle of Puebla
  • Other Festival Events

This is not a federal holiday though so most offices, banks, and stores stay open.

Cinco de Mayo in the US

In the 1960’s awareness was raised of this holiday in the United States. It is a notable holiday to celebrate Mexican culture. Here in the US this holiday is signified with:

  • Parades
  • Parties
  • Mariachi Music
  • Mexican folk dancing
  • Traditional foods such as Tacos and Mole Poblano


Note: Don’t confuse Cinco de Mayo with Mexican Independence Day. That’s celebrated September 16, but that’s another post for another day.

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