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By. Rev. Victor Fuhrman
Cinco De Mayo is like a Mexican David and Goliath Story. Also known as the Battle of Puebla, not everyone knows about Cinco De Mayo history and the reason so many people find it an inspiring day to celebrate. Some people confuse it with Mexican Independence Day.
Cinco De Mayo is the celebration of the inspiring victory of a group of rag-tag, poorly armed, farmers and soldiers over the powerful French Army during the Battle of Puebla, May 5th 1862. Mexico had amassed a large debt in its war with the United States over the annexation of Texas and in 1862 was virtually bankrupt. Lenders Spain, England and France sent their respective militaries to force Mexico to pay up. After seizing the port city of Veracruz, Spain and England agreed to extend more time to Mexico and withdrew their forces. France was not so agreeable and decided to wage war. France had a dual objective; take control of Mexico and interfere in the American Civil War, weakening the powerful and growing United States by aiding the confederacy.
The 6000 troop strong and undefeated French Army, under the command of French General Laurencez, began their March on Mexico City. The only thing that stood in their way was Texas born Mexican General Zaragoza and his 4000 man force, made up of mostly untrained farmers armed with machetes and old rifles. The battle field was the town of Puebla. Laurencez assumed that the battle would be a cake walk and in his arrogance, directed his army into the center of Zaragoza’s forces. The undermanned and under armed but determined Mexican army soundly defeated the French who withdrew and returned to France.
Oddly enough, this remarkable victory is not the Mexican holiday you would think, only being celebrated in Puebla. But north of the border, Cinco De Mayo has become a major festival and cause for celebration by Mexican Americans and Americans of all backgrounds. It has been compared to Saint Patrick’s Day and Oktoberfest as a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural blend of colorful costumes, music and dance, delicious foods and of course cerveza!
With all of the revelry and partying, the take away from the story of Cinco De Mayo is a story of the victory of human spirit against all odds. It reminds us that bullies of any ilk can be defeated when we muster our courage and have faith in our ability to overcome.