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.
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.
- See the Runyon (Robert) Photograph CollectionExternal, a collection of over 8,000 images of the Lower Rio Grande Valley from the early 1900s.
- Enjoy Hispano Music and Culture of the Northern Rio Grande: The Juan B. Rael Collection, an online presentation of a multi-format ethnographic field collection which documents religious and secular music of Spanish-speaking residents of rural Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado.
- Voices from the Dust Bowl: the Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940 to 1941 documents everyday life at Farm Security Administration (FSA) migrant work camps in central California in the early 1940s. The collection includes an interview with twenty-year-old migrant worker José Flores. He reflects on the cultural differences between Mexican and American families, discusses discrimination against Mexicans, and describes life in an FSA camp.
- The Hispanic Reading Room at the Library of Congress assists researchers investigating the geographical areas of the Caribbean, Latin America, and Iberia; the indigenous cultures of those areas; and peoples throughout the world historically influenced by Luso-Hispanic heritage, including Latinos in the U.S., and peoples of Portuguese or Spanish heritage in Africa, Asia, and Oceania. See the presentation Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-1995 as well as other online collections on Hispanic culture.
- Don’t miss Today in History features on José Manuel Gallegos and Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla.
- Search Working in Paterson: Occupational Heritage in an Urban Setting using keywords Mexican American, Hispanic American, emigration, and immigration to find and listen to interviews regarding working in America.
- The Mexican American section of the Immigration presentation on the Teachers website features the history of Mexicans in the United States.
- For more information about Cinco de Mayo take a look at the following blog posts: