WHAT: Cinco de Mayo 2015
WHY: To celebrate Mexico’s heritage
WHEN: Saturday 2nd May to Tuesday 5th May 2015
The 31st Cinco de Mayo Fiesta, which is Spanish for the fifth of May, is celebrated around the world by many countries as part of recognition of Mexico’s national heritage, although strangely not in Mexico except in Puebla.
Puebla was founded in 1531 and known at the time as Cuetlaxcoapan which when translated into English becomes “where the serpents change their skin”. The area is world-famous for its national dish named “Mole Pobano”. I now know “Mole” simple means sauce which would have been useful when I was once presented in Spain with “Chicken with Mole” and thought it was a local delicacy which used real moles (which was politely declined).
The story goes that on the 5th May 1862, 8000 French troops arrived in heavily armed ships to storm Veracruz forcing President Juarez to flee for his life. The French army, widely renowned as one of the world’s best armies at the time, outnumbered the poorly equipped Mexicans almost 2-1, the battle was already won in the eyes of the French commanders.
As the French advanced into the Puebla valley, around 4500 Mexicans occupying the Loreto and Guadalupe forts fought so bravely that they won the battle beating the seemingly invincible French forces, this was the first time in 50 years the invading army had been beaten and the 1st time any European force had been defeated by an army from the Americas, boosting national pride and giving new hope to Mexican independence.
For some time Spain, Britain, America and France all saw Mexico as a new territory to be conquered due to its location it would have helped the confederacy to establish a foothold, having serious ramifications for President Lincoln as he did not want America to get into a situation where they would be fighting on two fronts at the same time, he time took a neutral stance over the situation not wanting to antagonise Napoleon III.
While many believe that the 5th of May is Mexico’s Independence Day, National sovereignty didn’t happen until 28th September 1821 almost 300 years after the first celebration of the event.
Anyone who has been lucky enough to visit Puebla on this day will have heard guns shots and fireworks as a sign of hope and across the world many countries recognise the day with all things Mexican from foods to drinks and music.