Cinco de Mayo

Mexican troops under General Ignacio Zaragoza successfully defended the town of Puebla on May 5, 1862, temporarily halting France’s efforts to establish a puppet regime in Mexico. With the U.S. absorbed by the Civil War, Emperor Napoleon III hoped to create a French sphere of influence in Latin America. The victory is commemorated as a national holiday in Mexico.

Mexican Catholic Church, Deming, New Mexico, circa 1910-1919. The Northern Great Plains, 1880-1920: Photographs from the Fred Hultstrand External and F.A. Pazandak External Photograph Collections

The Mexican victory at Puebla was short-lived. French reinforcements seized the town in March 1863. The following June, Maximilian, younger brother of Emperor Franz Josef of Austria and a member of the Hapsburg dynasty, was crowned emperor of Mexico. He remained in power until 1867, when Napoleon III abandoned his Mexican adventure and withdrew his troops.

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has become an occasion to celebrate Hispanic culture. Fairs commemorating the day feature singing, dancing, food, and other amusements, and provide a means of sharing a rich and diverse culture.

Mexican Girl External, Deming, New Mexico, circa 1910-1919. The South Texas Border, 1900-1920: Photographs from the Robert Runyon Collection External

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