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The story of Cinco de Mayo: Battle of Puebla is about more than just Mexican food and drink

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – Thursday is Cinco de Mayo, a day traditionally celebrated in the United States with Mexican food and drink. But behind this cultural holiday, which some have even confused with Mexico’s Independence Day, there is much more meaning.

According to a NationalToday.com poll, only 10% of Americans know the true meaning behind it.

According to historians, Cinco de Mayo recognizes Mexico’s unexpected victory over the French army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. dr Raul Ramos, an associate professor in the University of Houston history department, says the odds are stacked originally against Mexico, which has been struggling financially. The country owed money to some European nations that invaded to collect debts. Most withdrew after negotiations, but France stayed and attempted to establish a new empire.

“The Mexican army was undermanned and poorly equipped. But they still managed to beat the French army. It’s a bit like defending Kyiv in Ukraine, you could say it’s the Mexican defense of their homeland,” he said ramos

Not many may know that the state of Texas has ties to the historical event that inspired Cinco de Mayo. Ramos said General Ignacio Zaragoza, who led Mexican forces at the Battle of Puebla, was born in Goliad, about 150 miles southwest of Houston.

“This sequential model should remind us that American history and Mexican history are not only intertwined within the Mexican-American community. But I think in general. The history of Mexico is the history of the United States,” he said.

Every year, reenactments of the battle are held in areas like Mexico City. However, experts say that Cinco de Mayo is actually celebrated more in the United States than in Mexico.

“This is a Mexican and an American event. For many Mexicans in the United States, they saw the defense against France as similar to defending the Union against the Confederacy. It was an attempt to prevent a return to old aristocratic times and move forward,” Ramos said. “I think it’s a moment to recognize Mexican heritage and ethnicity. It’s become a de facto St. Patrick’s Day, if you will.”

WATCH: Cinco de Mayo trivia

Houston Community Attorney Blanca Beltran said the historic date was a day of culture, tradition and pride for her. Her parents were migrant workers who eventually settled in Houston after starting a family and wanting to provide some stability for their children. She recalls her favorite memory from Cinco de Mayo.

“I think back to when I was a kid, performing at Cinco de Mayo screenings. My mom made me a beautiful yellow skirt to wear during the Cinco de Mayo celebration for the JR Harris Elementary School performance. That moment impressed me that I really love my culture,” she said.

In the city of Houston, Valeria Ramirez Siller of the Consulate General of Mexico says there are more than 2.5 million people of Mexican heritage.

“That story of resilience that is very present in the Battle of Puebla. We bring them to the US when we immigrate. Our community has them with them and it’s a reminder of how resilient our people are,” she said.

In recent decades, Cinco de Mayo has become a staple after brewing companies began capitalizing on the holiday in the ’70s, while Mexican restaurants and bars rose in popularity. According to Womply, restaurants see a 44% increase in sales every year on May 5th.

While Beltran says she supports the extra financial boost it brings to local Mexican businesses, she hopes the public will put in more effort to learn more about the true meaning behind the holiday.

“I wish more people didn’t just want to know more about sombreros, margaritas, and everything people do to celebrate Cinco de Mayo,” Beltran said. “I don’t take it personally if people don’t know. But I love being the one who lets them know what it’s really about. I encourage people to ask. You are not insulting me.”

Ramos and Ramirez Siller say Cinco de Mayo should be a time to recognize the contribution of the Mexican people to the United States, at a time when discrimination and hateful rhetoric still exist in that community.

“A lot of people still want to revoke the birthright of citizenship. My parents weren’t born here. You were born in Mexico. Although I was born in San Antonio in the shadow of the Alamo, some people still don’t consider me an American citizen. Those are the rights we need to remind people that we’re defending all the time. Just like how Mexico was defended,” he said.

“We are important workers. With the pandemic we saw that they were in hospitals. They have been in restaurants, hotels, construction, etc. The contribution of Mexicans in the US is very large. It’s a very good time for the American AND the Mexican to think about what unites us and not what divides us,” said Ramirez Siller.

The Mexican Consulate General in Houston will commemorate the Battle of Puebla this Saturday, May 7, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 3200 Rogerdale Road. The event includes artistic presentations, games and information stands on legal protection, education, finance and entrepreneurship. The public is invited.

For more on this story, follow Rosie Nguyen on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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https://abc13.com/cinco-de-mayo-battle-of-puebla-may-5th-mexican-history/11821874/ The story of Cinco de Mayo: Battle of Puebla is about more than just Mexican food and drink

Dais Johnston

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