The celebration of Cinco de Mayo (meaning 5th of May in Spanish) should not be confused with Mexican Independence Day. Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on 15th September (eve of Independence Day) while Cinco de Mayo falls on 5th of May. Mexico declared its independence from Spain on 24th August, 1821. This modern holiday begain when a group of California State University students decided to hold the first Cinco de Mayo commemoration in the United States. This was around 1967. The students felt that there was no Chicano holidays and needed to do something about it. They wanted something to recapture their history and identity and decided that the Battle of Puebla was symbolic and they could connect it to their struggle for the formation of a Chicano Studies program at the university.
Cinco de Mayo is not an American Holiday but it is celebrated on a much larger scale by Chicanos in the U.S. than in Mexico. In Mexico, the celebration of Independence Day is considered more important. Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of the courage of the Mexican people during the battle (La Batalla de Puebla) on May 5th, 1862 where 4,500 Mexican soldiers defeated the Mexican traitors (exiled Mexican Convervatives) and French army of 6,500 at Puebla, Mexico . Puebla is 100 miles east of Mexico City. The Mexican forces were made up of untrained commoners. This victory did not win the war but it showed the courage and strength of the Mexican troops. The “Batalla de Puebla” became a symbol of Mexican unity and patriotism.
After Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, the country was faced with many problems. There were internal power struggles and during the dictatorship of Santa Anna, Mexico went to war with the United States in 1846. This war and the years of fighting put Mexico in a very bad financial position. It was bankrupt. Mexico had to give away a huge portion of its land to the United States. That land is now known as Texas.