Cinco de Mayo is frequently regarded as the Mexican equivalent of the United States 4th of July. This is incorrect. In actuality, it is the equivalent of the 5th of May. Nevertheless, a number of important things have occurred in Mexican history on the 5th of May, indeed, on a number of different May 5ths throughout the years. One of these is the commemoration of the last Beer Bust held at Sun Microsystems. But this is relatively insignificant historically. Of greater importance is the battle of Cinco de Mayo that occurred in 1862.
Juarez, who had been Zapotec Indian minister of Justice in Juan Alvarez’ cabinet in the 1850’s, entered Mexico City on January 11, 1861 and promptly expelled the Spanish minister, the papal legate, and members of the episcopate. Additionally, he took steps to enforce the decrees of 1859 disestablishing and disendowing the church. He could not have known at this time that almost a century later, “antidisestablishmentarianism” would become the longest word in the English dictionary. Although Juarez was recognized by the United States and had received both moral and military aid from the US, there were over $80,000,000 in debts at that time to Europe alone. The Mexican Congress in July 17, 1861 decreed the suspension for 2 years of interest payments on the external national debt, and 3 months later a convention occurred between Great Britain, France, and Spain calling for joint intervention in Mexico.
As European forces advanced, and particularly the French troops, their advance was checked at Puebla on May 5, 1862.
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian