Why Cinco de Mayo is also a U.S. holiday

May 5, 2015 § Leave a comment

Cinco de Mayo is more than Mexican cultural and historical event.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the post Mexican War (1846-1848) friendship between our countries and American support for the Mexican struggle to regain independence from France.

In 1861 during the U.S. Civil War, France sent troops to Mexico and made Mexico into a French colony.

The U.S. was still committed to its foreign policy of opposing by force attempts to recolonize any American nation that had won their independence (the Monroe Doctrine). The Civil War prevented the U.S. from enforcing that policy. As Lincoln said regarding another dispute, only one war at a time.

However, Mexico resisted.

On May 5, 1862, at Pueblo outside of Mexico City, Mexican irregulars, guerrillas, and militia defeated the invading French forces.

While the French lost that battle, they still were able to capture Mexico City and impose colonial rule.

Despite losing their capitol and government, Mexico continued to resist.

Abraham Lincoln and the Union supported the Mexicans while the Confederacy hoped to trade support for the French colonization of Mexico for recognition of Confederate independence.

At Lincoln’s order in late 1863 Union forces landed from the Gulf of Mexico and seized Brownsville, Texas as a show of force and a warning to France.

After the surrender of the Confederacy, 50,000 Federal troops under General Philip Sheridan were deployed to the Mexican border with Texas.


97px-Philip_Sheridan_01009a_restored

General Philip Sheridan commander of the U.S. forces deployed to the Texas border with Mexico.

1865 photo by Matthew Brady from the Library of Congress.


France withdrew and the Mexicans overthrew the colonial government, completing their struggle which began with their victory on the first Cinco de Mayo.

The success of the Mexican resistance restored Mexican independence and saved the U.S. from engaging in another war immediately after the Civil War.

That’s something both nations can celebrate together.


I wrote this in reaction to white supremacists advocating making Cinco de Mayo “Turn in an Illegal Day”.


In depth historical background and context are occasional features of my family history blogs.


Originally posted on May 5, 2010 on Leonard’s Critical Thinking with a Cynical Edge.

Revised: May 5, 2015.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p5YuOj-1E

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You are currently reading Why Cinco de Mayo is also a U.S. holiday at Anson Croman, the 20th Michigan Infantry Regiment, and the American Civil War.

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