5 de Mayo, the great American holiday.
It is definitely a Mexican holiday, but one of little importance to them. It is not celebrated as it is here, in the United States. It might be celebrated more in Puebla, Mexico, where the famous battle took place, but it’s not about margaritas and the commercialized way it’s celebrated here. It is worth taking a deeper look and reflect on what Cinco de Mayo truly means for the United States.
The underlying importance of this holiday for the United States is not so much what happened, but what didn’t happen because of what happened.
First of all, it is not similar to the Fourth of July, our Independence Day. It is not the celebration of Mexico’s independence. That day is September 16.
On May 5, 1862, the French failed to take Mexico and while their intentions vary, many argue that their true intent was for Mexico to be France’s stepping stone toward reinforcing the Confederates and most likely use Mexico as the base to take on the United States in the middle of a Civil War.
Mexican President Benito Juarez asked for help from President Lincoln, who was sympathetic but in no position to sustain a Civil War and fight the French. Lincoln’s answer was a short one: “sincere wishes for the happiness, prosperity and liberty of yourself, your government and its people.” Short from what Mexico expected, granted that Mexico had just given up one-third of its nation to the United States a few years earlier.
Nonetheless, after Mexico won, President Lincoln congratulated Mexico and offered U.S. support, but it wasn’t until after the Civil War ended that Mexico received military help.
Had the French succeeded, the outcome of the U.S. Civil War would not have been the same, along with all the implications that would have come with that.
Happy Cinco de Mayo!