What is celebrated on May 5 in Mexico and why is it so popular in the United States?

May 5 is a commemorative date that refers to the triumph of the Mexican army over the French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. This historic event has become a cause for celebration in some communities in the United States and has even been confused as the Independence of Mexico itself.

To understand the popularity of this date, we present the origin of the historical event in the country and how it was later adopted by the community of Mexican origin in the United States.

The Battle of Puebla

After the War of Reform, a crisis was generated that prevented Mexico, at that time under the command of Benito Juárez, from continuing to pay the debts acquired with England, Spain, and France, which represented 70% of the country’s economic resources.

In the midst of the tension, the three countries sent troops to Mexican territory; however, thanks to the Soledad Treaties, a commitment was signed in which the country assured that these debts would be settled later.

Spain and England withdrew their army. France, for its part, did not agree to comply with the pact and began an armed intervention on April 27, 1862, advancing to the Puebla region.

On May 5, the Mexican forces remained in front at the Forts of Guadalupe and Loreto, from where they would defend themselves against the French. The soldiers defended themselves against the attacks despite being out-armed by the French Army.

At the time, the Mexican troops were commanded by General Ignacio Zaragoza, while General Charles Ferdinand Latrille was the leader of the French army.

May 5 in the United States

Along with the Battle of Puebla, the United States was experiencing one of the most important historical moments in its history: The Civil War. The period in which there were differences between some states for the rejection of slavery.

According to the historian David Hayes Bautista, for the population of that time, the struggles had similar ideas about democracy and anti-racism. When both events ended, members of the military in Mexico and veterans in the United States came together to commemorate them.

Additionally, news of the triumph over the French was received by Mexican miners working in California and fueled anti-slavery sentiment. This is how they began to celebrate it, spreading throughout the United States.

May 5 celebrations

By 1883 it began to be celebrated on May 5 officially in Sonora, Mexico, later it was extended to cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. This popularized the date and led to it being more remembered or confused with the Independence of Mexico, which is celebrated every September 16.

An article in the Gaceta UNAM explains that five years after the Battle of Puebla, a particular group of Mexicans celebrated the date in Texas, which became a symbol for Mexicans who lived in states that belonged to Mexico.

In addition, in 1930 the consulate in Los Angeles – where the biggest celebrations take place – gave it the status of an official celebration. Even on several occasions, the US Congress called for the preservation of May 5 in the country.

The celebrations include Mexican food tasting, parades, parties, representative ceremonies, and the sale of traditional alcoholic beverages, such as beer and tequila.

According to a YouGov Direct survey of 2,079 people in 2020, 41% of Americans surveyed believe that this date is Mexico’s Independence Day; 40% know that it is not and 19% were not sure.

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