Cinco de Mayo is one of the most iconic Mexican holidays, recognized and celebrated both in Mexico and here in the United States. However, many confuse Cinco de Mayo with Mexican Independence Day (September 16). Mexican Independence Day represents the separation of Mexico from Spanish dominion, while Cinco de Mayo marks a battle that helped to unify Mexicans as one people.
Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of the defeat of the French army during the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The invading French army, at the time considered to be one of the greatest armies in the world, was defeated by a much smaller force of Mexican troops. This underdog victory became a rallying cry that helped to unify a divided country, even after the French captured Mexico City and established a short-lived monarchy.
Today, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated with colorful festivals, parades and music that show the cultural solidarity of Mexicans. While Independence Day commemorates the day Mexico became its own nation, people still gather more than a hundred years later to celebrate the battle that defined a culture.