What About Cinco de Mayo?
Another Mexican holiday, the fifth of May, is sometimes assumed by North Americans to be Mexico's independence day. However, it is the date of the Battle of Puebla.
In the 1860s, following decades of war and struggle the Mexican republic had no choice but to default on loans from European countries, leading to invasion by the French army, and yet another war. The French intervention lasted from 1861 -1867. The best known date in the war against the French invaders was near its beginning - May 5, 1862 - when General Zaragosa defeated the French army at the Battle of Puebla.
The victory has been mythologized as a victory of the Mexican peasants against a far stronger and more numerous foreign army. However, the disparity was not in reality very large, and the defeat of the French rested mostly on Zaragosa's sound military tactics, and mistakes by the French. Interestingly, it was not the battle decisive in winning the war.
Nevertheless, it was a massive morale boost for the new Mexican republic, and was most welcome news in the USA, which had declared that interference in any of the Americas by a European power would be taken as an attack on the Union. The American Civil War was raging, and the fear of the Union side was that the French would favour and assist the Confederate forces if their power in Mexico was consolidated.
To this day, perhaps because of its resonance with the US at the time, there is far greater awareness in the US of May 5 than of the actual Mexican Independence Day in September. May 5 is the day when great quantities of Mexican beer are consumed the length and breadth of the States.
Both dates are holidays in Mexico, but the victory against the French has less meaning for Mexicans than does the brave priest's speech, which led to the overthrow of the principal colonial power, and the birth of an independent state.