The Real History Of Cinco De Mayo Cinco de Mayo commemorates the First Battle of Puebla, a battle in 1862 between Mexican and French forces.
NPR logo

The Real History Of Cinco De Mayo

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/720376183/720376184" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
The Real History Of Cinco De Mayo

The Real History Of Cinco De Mayo

The Real History Of Cinco De Mayo

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/720376183/720376184" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the First Battle of Puebla, a battle in 1862 between Mexican and French forces.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Cinco de Mayo is a time when Americans celebrate Mexico, and Mexicans grumble that Americans have no idea what they're celebrating. This year, there is data to back up that perception - well, if you can count a poll paid for by Avocados from Mexico as reliable data. The poll says that only 22% of Americans know what Cinco de Mayo is actually about. Here's the real history.

In 1862, during the U.S. Civil War, the French Army marched towards Mexico City. Emperor Napoleon III was eager to establish a second Mexican empire favorable to the French, an outpost in the New World that would serve as a kind of replacement for all that French land his uncle decided to sell to Thomas Jefferson in the Louisiana Purchase. So he sent a fleet to attack Veracruz, land of force and head to Mexico City. But they were defeated before they could even get there - at the Mexican city of Puebla - when a young Mexican general named Ignacio Zaragoza beat back the French troops in a bloody confrontation.

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo celebrates that battle, the first battle of Puebla. And it's pretty low key. Here in the U.S., it's become a time to enjoy Mexican culture with tequila, guacamole and tortillas.

By the way, there was a second battle of Puebla, which the French won. And Napoleon III did finally get his second Mexican empire, but it only lasted a few years. Here in the United States, enjoy Cinco de Mayo.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.