By now, many Americans understand that Cinco de Mayo is not the celebration of Mexican Independence Day (which falls on Sept. 16). It is, however, the commemoration of The Battle of Puebla, a day in which an outnumbered Mexican army defeated an invading Imperialist France in the city of Puebla, 62 years after Mexico had declared its independence from the Spanish. Cinco de Mayo is seldom celebrated in Mexico, except for the city of Puebla, in which the event took place.
(This TIME story goes in detail about what led to the conflict and the role of Mexico and this battle in the American Civil War)
Before the commercialization of Cinco de Mayo, Mexican-Americans – living in the middle of the civil rights struggles of the 50s and 60s – embraced and began celebrating Cinco de Mayo as a show of pride for their Mexican culture, primarily through the Chicano activist culture of southern California, but later spreading throughout the U.S.
- Carlos Restrepo, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce