5 Facts about Cinco de Mayo

UNITED STATES

This Tuesday, many Americans will celebrate Cinco de Mayo. “But if you ask why is anyone celebrating, no one knows,” says one expert. (Nat Geo News).

Learn the facts about Cinco de Mayo with our super-short This Day in Geographic History article.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit, including a link to today’s MapMaker Interactive map!

What a great photo! Mariachi music is one of the most familiar and enjoyable symbols of Cinco de Mayo, Mexico, and Mexican-American culture. Photograph by Elidealista, courtesy Wikimedia. Public domain.

What a great photo! Mariachi music is one of the most familiar and enjoyable symbols of Cinco de Mayo, Mexico, and Mexican-American culture.
Photograph by Elidealista, courtesy Wikimedia. Public domain.

Discussion Ideas

  • Cinco de May commemorates the Battle of Puebla, an historic Mexican military victory. We know Spanish conquistadores invaded Mexico in the 16th century, and Spanish remains the official language of Mexico today. So, the holiday must celebrate a Mexican victory over Spain, right?
    • Wrong! It was a Mexican victory against France. Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1810. The Battle of Puebla took place on May 5, 1862, during the so-called French Intervention in Mexico. Forces led by Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated a larger and better-equipped French force in the city of Puebla, about 110 kilometers (68 miles) east of Mexico City. (Find Mexico City and Puebla on the map!) Curious about the French in Mexico? Of course you are! Here are the basics.
      • The French Intervention in Mexico was largely the result of unpaid loans. Mexican President Benito Juarez had suspended the country’s foreign debts while Mexico was undergoing a civil war known as the “Reform War.” The so-called “Tripartite Alliance” of France, the United Kingdom, and Spain planned to invade Mexico and force the government to repay its debts.
      • Although France lost the support of the UK and Spain as well as the Battle of Puebla, it did ultimately succeed in establishing the “Second Mexican Empire” with a European aristocrat as its emperor (Maximilian I of Mexico). President Juarez was forced to flee the capital and establish a government-in-exile in the northern city of Chihuahua City, Chihuahua.
      • The Second Mexican Empire faced fierce opposition from most Mexicans, and French forces left Mexico in 1866. Emperor Maximilian refused to leave, and was executed in 1867 on the orders of returning-President Juarez.
Take a look at today's MapMaker Interactive map to get an idea about what nations had a stake in the Battle of Puebla.

Take a look at today’s MapMaker Interactive map to get an idea about what nations had a stake in the Battle of Puebla.
Map by National Geographic

 

 

  • Why was the Battle of Puebla celebrated in the United States during the 1860s?
    • The Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla resonated in the U.S. for two major reasons.
      • First, there were a lot of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the American Southwest in the 1860s—in California, Texas, and the regions that would eventually become the states of Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona. In fact, the first Cinco de Mayo celebrations were allegedly held by Mexican and Mexican-American miners in the California gold-mining town of Columbia.
      • Second, the Battle of Puebla may have had an indirect influence on the American Civil War raging at the time. Some historians think that if Mexico had not offered such strong resistance at Puebla and elsewhere, France may have used it as a base to offer military and financial support to the Confederacy. (No, France had no intention of invading the U.S.—historians think they were seeking to free Southern ports from Union blockades and re-open them to lucrative international trade.)

 

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Nat Geo: Beyond Cinco De Mayo photo gallery

Nat Geo: This Day in Geographic History: Cinco de Mayo

Nat Geo: Was Cinco de Mayo an International Incident? map

Nat Geo: Puebla map

Nat Geo: Mexico country profile

Nat Geo: Cinco de Mayo History Short on Beer, Long on Bloodshed

2 responses to “5 Facts about Cinco de Mayo

  1. Pingback: Celebrate Cinco with Us | The Meat House Blog·

  2. Pingback: This Week in Geographic History, May 1 – 7 | Nat Geo Education Blog·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s