May 3, 2013 -- Cinco de Mayo is this weekend. We know the Penn State sorority girls are excited!
Mexican director Rafa Lara brings the Battle of Puebla to the big screen in a beautiful recreation of the historic events that took place in Mexico in the year 1862.
But how are you celebrating? Let me guess... you're above the sombrero-wearing college kids so you're headed to an authentic Mexican margarita bar. Such a hipster. Before you plan your most inoffensive Cinco de Mayo outfit, take a look at these 4 things you should know about the holiday you're drinking to.
1) Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day
Mexican Independence Day is September 16, 1810
2) May 5th, 1862 ("Cinco de Mayo") Wasn't an Overnight Event
Mexican President Benito Juárez suspended interest payments to foreign countries after several wars dried the country up. Mexico's three big creditors -- France, Spain, and Britain -- weren't happy about this, so they sent troops to Veracruz to demand repayment.
Napoleon III didn't just want Mexico's money, he wanted access to Mexico's silver and to install a French monarch. Spain and Britain didn't want part in that so they backed off and returned to their countries.
So now French troops were left in Mexico and the French Intervention of Mexico began in July of 1861.
Mexicans were outnumbered and not equipped to take on such a massive organized army (6,000 French troops to 2,000 Mexicans). Think the movie 300, or the Battle of Thermopylae if you're not a Gerard Butler fan. Somehow the French army was defeated in Puebla -- ergo The Battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862. This was a huge deal for Mexico, and the French retreated.
3) That's Not the Last Mexico Saw of France
Napoleon III came back with more forces and Arch Duke Maximillian, who would become Emperor of Mexico. He was also quite a stylish fellow. The French finally withdrew in 1866.
4) Mexicans Don't Even Consider Cinco de Mayo a National Holiday
Schools have the day off in the state of Puebla (there's even a local reenactment of the battle) but Mexicans dont celebrate this holiday. The Cinco de Mayo as we know it originated in the United States in the West. Mexican-Americans are the ones who began celebrating on May 5th as a way to identify with their home country and represent their culture in the U.S.
So... Now you know. You can go have an educated Cinco de Mayo experience this weekend.
Cinco de Mayo should be a holiday about a battle, about a step toward freedom from an European foe, and about all the civilians who had to fight the French troops with little or no military experience (the nurses weren't even trained nurses -- they were the wives, mothers, and sisters of the soldiers.) You can learn all of this by watching "Cinco de Mayo, La Batalla." But unfortunately, the drinking celebration has taken over. The bottle over the battle.
But who are we kidding, the bottle is so damn good.