The History of Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo literally means the 5th of May in Spanish. Contrary to common misconception, it is not Mexican Independence Day. Mexico became independent from Spain decades earlier on September 16, 1810. But by May 5, 1962, Mexico was facing occupation by another country. The French Army had been sent there by Napoleon five months earlier, supposedly to collect money that Mexico owed to France. However, it seemed that the real reason France had invaded Mexico was to take over territory.

Cinco de Mayo is actually the anniversary of a battle against the French Army that took place in Puebla, Mexico, on May 5, 1862. It was a David vs. Goliath situation, as the French army was then considered one of the best in the world, but the Mexicans won. Americans, especially in Southern California, supported the Mexicans in their battle against French rule. President Lincoln even sent troops to join with the Mexicans, because he didn’t want France to start helping the Confederates in the southern states.

In the United States, the day was first celebrated in Mexican-American communities in California. Now there are over 100 Cinco de Mayo celebrations across the U.S. each year. Cinco de Mayo is a celebration not only of Mexican culture, but also of the Mexican-American relationship. The holiday is not widely celebrated in Mexico except for in the state of Puebla and the city of Puebla itself.

Here are some resources for learning about Cinco de Mayo. (Click on image to enlarge it.)

The International Flavors of Cinco de Mayo – The History of Cinco de Mayo, from Mexonline. – Cinco de Mayo, the Real Story. The Battle of Puebla and its link to American Independence, by John Shepler. – A reading comprehension lesson on Cinco de Mayo, with a printable teaching lesson worksheet, from WorksheetsPlus. – Cinco de Mayo printable teaching lesson worksheets, from JumpStart. – Cinco de Mayo worksheets and coloring pages, from – Mexican Food activity sheet, from – Spanish Words activity sheet, from – WATCH: A Brief History of Cinco de Mayo by Evan Simon via Good Morning America.

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