Cinco de Mayo — Not Mexican Independence Day
In Los Angeles, we do know that Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May, is not the day Mexico gained its independence from Spain. It is historically important to Mexicans, however, as it marks their unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, as the French eyed the possibility of taking over the still-forming nation after its long struggle for independence and self-determination.
The French eventually did win the war, installing Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph, of the house of Habsburg and an Austrian, as emperor of Mexico in 1864. But his rule would not last. Mexicans threw their support behind the statesman-lawyer Benito Juarez, and U.S. political pressure contributed to the decision by the French to withdraw from Mexico. Maximilian was executed in 1867.
In the U.S., Cinco de Mayo has become an opportunity for Mexican-Americans to celebrate their heritage and invite everyone else to the party. Our Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Autry took place last weekend, and it drew almost 1,000 people.
Here are a few of them, in pictures by Danielle Klebanow:
And just one more . . .