Background Popular belief is Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May) is Mexican Independence Day; it is not. Cinco de Mayo is the day in 1862 when Mexican forces overpowered the French Army in the Battle of Puebla. Mexico actually gained independence from Spain in 1821, but had internal struggles for several decades and accrued debt to Spain, France and England in its efforts to repair its economy.
Marching Orders According to mexicoonline.com, France had ambitions grander than reclaiming money from Mexico. France wanted to take over the country and expand its empire, starting with Mexico City. The plan was for 6,500 French soldiers to march from the Gulf of Mexico toward Mexico City for the takeover.
Puebla The French legion was met by Mexico’s army in the town of Puebla on May 5th. With only 4,500 soldiers led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, Mexico was the underdog against the French army. Against all odds, the Mexican soldiers defeated the French army and thwarted the invasion of Mexico City. It was a cause for celebration for the Mexicans and, allegedly, word spread to Mexican workers all the way up the coast of California. In the United States and in Mexico, Mexicans raised a glass for the pride of Mexico.
While the battle was won by the Mexicans, the war wasn’t. France returned to Mexico with 30,000 soldiers and took over Mexico City within the year. Finally, in 1867, Mexico took back control of Mexico City and restoration of the country began again.
Today Today, Cinco de Mayo is a day to celebrate Mexican heritage and culture. National Geographic reports the holiday didn’t start gaining popularity in the United States until the 1950s and ‘60s through efforts by the US to connect with Mexicans and Mexican-Americans and the Chicano movement to strengthen Mexican pride. Though the only big Cinco de Mayo celebration is held in Puebla, people all over the world celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
Little Known Fact: While Americans toast to Mexican Pride on Cinco de Mayo with a generously poured glass of margarita, the history of the drink isn’t quite as long as the holiday we celebrate it with.
According to the Smithsonian Magazine, there are a couple of claims to the cup that runneth over with tequila. In 1938, the owner of Rancho la Gloria near Tijuana, contends he concocted the drink for a regular at his restaurant – an actress who was allergic to all alcohol except tequila, but couldn’t stomach the elixir by itself. The proprietor says he mixed the tequila with lime juice, triple sec and salt to make what we now know as the margarita.
Another story is a Dallas socialite named Margarita Sames came up with the combination as the signature cocktail for her vacation home in Acapulco around 1948. Legend has it one of her guests, Tommy Hilton, liked it so much he put it on the bar menu at his hotels.
No matter how you mix it, the margarita is the signature cocktail for Cinco de Mayo.