In 1862 as the United States was engulfed in the Civil War, Mexico was fighting for it’s independence from European powers (England and France) that sought to subject Mexico under their rule. The person of Maxamillian was installed as the new Emperor of Mexico and the fight was on. That year, Mexican forces defeated the French in the state of Puebla. North of the border Californians took note of the events occurring south of Mexico City. The Californians couldn’t help but notice the similarities between what was occurring in Mexico and the struggle going on in the United States; they celebrated the defeat of tyranny in Mexico as a sign of the defeat of the tyranny of slavery. During the 1960’s and 70’s, during the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, the holiday of Cinco de Mayo was used as a way of promoting pride in being Mexican. Like the original intentions of the Californians a hundred years prior, the Chicano movement sought to use the events surrounding Cinco de Mayo as a way of promoting a change in the United States.
Today, unfortunately, most Americans are ignorant of the origins of “Mexico’s greatest holiday.”