Many Americans mistakenly associate Cinco de Mayo (translated: "the 5th of May") as Mexico's Independence Day, just as we celebrate Independence Day for the
United States of America on July 4th every year. Mexico's Independence Day is September 16, celebrating the day in 1810 when the war began that ultimately led
to Mexico gaining freedom from Spain's rule.
So what is the significance of the fifth of May in Mexican history?
In 1862, after being an independent nation for over forty years and undergoing a series of internal and external wars, Mexico was heavily in debt to Spain, England, and
France. France, in an attempt to build its empire, used the outstanding debt as a reason to send troops to Mexico with the intention of capturing Mexico City and taking
over rule of the country.
A well outfitted French army of 6500 soldiers landed on the gulf coast of Mexico and began marching toward Mexico City. On May 5, 1862 they were met in Puebla, Mexico by
Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza and a poorly armed band of 4500 Mexican soldiers. General Zaragoza's army defeated the French.
Though the French later returned with
thousands of additional troops and ultimately gained control of Mexico (for a short period of time), the victory at the battle of Puebla continues to hold special significance
in the history of Mexico as the brave soldiers courageously defended their freedom.
Today, Cinco de Mayo is enthusiastically celebrated throughout U.S. cities across the country making it one of the biggest ethnic celebrations of the year.
The community of South Omaha
in Omaha, Nebraska has a rich Mexican heritage. The South Omaha Latino community has been hosting Cinco de Mayo events in Omaha since 1985. Annual festivities
include a grand parade, delicious food, lively music, and boundless community spirit.