Did you know that the first Cinco de Mayo celebration was not in Mexico, but in California in 1863? To this day, the date is still more celebrated in the US than in Mexico. While that probably has more to do with tequila and beer corporations marketing the holiday, there is a good reason for (North) Americans to remember Cinco de Mayo. Contrary to popular belief, May 5th is not Mexico’s Independence Day. It actually commemorates one of the most important battles in the US Civil War and played a part in Lincoln being able to preserve the Union.
After a series of exhausting and expensive wars from 1846 to 1860 (including the Mexican-American War), Mexico was bankrupt. Mexican President Juarez issued a memorandum that all debt payments would have to be suspended for two years. That was enough for the English, Spanish and the French to load their respective armies on their ships to come looking for payment. While the English and Spanish worked out an agreement with Mexico and turned back, Napoleon III (Napoleon I’s nephew) saw an opportunity to make a land grab and establish “The Second Mexican Empire.” (more…)