Contrary to popular belief, Cinco De Mayo is not the holiday recognizing Mexico’s independence. Instead, it is a holiday which celebrates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It originally started out as a regional holiday in the state of Puebla and has since gained popularity among Mexican immigrant populations living in the United States as a day for celebrating their cultural heritage and national pride.
Here is a look at interesting numbers and facts behind the increasingly popular Mexican holiday:
May 5, 1862: The day which gave birth to Cinco De Mayo. Mexicans had reason to celebrate after a small force of 4,500 Mexican soldiers crushed the advancing French army at Fort Loreto and Fort Guadalupe after French soldiers had swept through Veracruz and forced Mexican President Benito Juarez to retreat into hiding.
8,000: The number of troops Napoleon III, emperor of France, sent to overthrow the Mexican government after President Juarez suspended foreign debt repayments for two years starting in 1861. Napoleon III had plans to make Mexico part of a new world French Empire. Instead, the French army suffered defeat for the first time in nearly 50 years.
1867: The year Mexican troops finally expelled the French army from Mexico. This represented the last time a European power invaded an independent nation in either North America or South America.
150: According to National Geographic News, more than 150 official celebrations of Cinco De Mayo take place in towns and cities across the United States. Festivities typically include parades, concerts and consumption of large amounts of Mexican food and beverages.
Sept. 16: The date for the actual Mexican Independence Day, commemorating the end of Spanish rule in 1810. Many people outside of Mexico confuse this holiday with Cinco De Mayo, thinking the latter date denotes country’s independence day.
600,000: The approximate number of people who turn out each year for the Festival de Fiesta Broadway. Held in Los Angeles, this is the world’s largest Cinco De Mayo celebration, featuring plenty of food and live music. Other major Cinco De Mayo festivals are held in Denver and St. Paul, Minn. Each of these festivals also draws hundreds of thousands of people.
1948: Although it is popularly connected with Cinco De Mayo, the first margarita was actually concocted in 1948 by Dallas socialite Margarita Sames while she was staying at her vacation home in Acapulco, Mexico. Sames got the idea to mix tequila, ice, lime and sugar together to create a new drink.
185,000: Margaritas are one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in the United States, even outside of Cinco De Mayo celebrations. It is estimated that Americans consume an average of 185,000 margaritas per hour, as reported by the Plain Dealer.
365: Cinco De Mayo is one of 365 celebrations that Mexican citizens or people with Mexican heritage celebrate annually.
6 Billion: Tortillas are a staple food of Cinco De Mayo celebrations, only serving to boost the food’s popularity among various nationalities worldwide. In the United States alone, tortillas have become an industry that generates $6 billion in annual revenue. The U.S. Census Bureau notes there are 374 manufacturing facilities for tortillas in the United States.
Stefan Lovgren, “Cinco de Mayo, From Mexican Fiesta to Popular U.S. Holiday,” National Geographic News, May, 5, 2006.
Facts for features, “Cinco De Mayo,” U.S. Census Bureau Newsroom, March, 25, 2011.
Michael Heaton. “Facts, fiction on Cinco De Mayo,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 1, 2011.