To me it's simple, Cinco de Mayo is one of the most important dates in the history of the US.
(Yeah I said that).
For many years, lots of folks living in this country confused it with the day of Mexico's Independence. It’s not. But over the last few years, I’ve noticed a change. People have gotten better about correcting one another and pointing out that the 5th of May is actually the anniversary of a battle in the state of Puebla, Mexico.
That battle, in fact, was one of the most consequential battles in history. Somewhere between the Battle of Thermopylae, The Siege of Orleans, and (dare I say) Gettysburg, all in one.
In late 1861, the greatest Army in the history of the world, that of the French, arrived at the coast of Veracruz, Mexico.
Their goal: To establish a new government in Mexico that would ensure everlasting European influence throughout Latin America. All funded by what they perceived would be quick and easy access to Mexican silver.
And so, in only a matter of weeks, they made their way inland. On May 4th, forces led by French General Charles de Lorencez arrived at Puebla.
An army of 6,000 of the finest soldiers armed with superior weaponry and 4x the ammunition of the Mexican army, prepared to go into battle.
In anticipation, the legendary Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza managed to put together an Army of people from the surrounding villages, composed of about 4,000 volunteer soldiers from Oaxaca, Coahuila, Michoacan… and of course, the indigenous people of the state of Puebla, who made up the majority of the troops. Together, they gathered in trenches between the Fort of Lareto and the Fort of Guadalupe.
Their weapons: machetes, bayonets, and stones.
The French Army was so confident this would be a quick fight that they brought 20,000 liters of wine with them to celebrate their victory — approximately 4 liters of wine per soldier.
On May 5th, 1862, at 11:45 a.m., local time, the battle of Puebla began.
4 hours later, the battle was over.
After charging the Mexican Front three times and failing, the French Army retreated.
They completely underestimated the heart of the people of Mexico.
This date is incredibly important in the annals of history for many reasons. The first is that no other European country has made an attempt to invade a sovereign nation on this side of the world since.
The second is that had the French won and established a colony in the Americas, it would have provided aid to the Confederacy - soldiers, ammunition, money, and more - in exchange for Southern cotton. Third, is the way this date has been celebrated in America. Yeah, the folks in Puebla have been celebrating it since day one, but you know who else has been celebrating it since day one?
Folks in the Southwest.
The day after the victory, there were people in the streets of LA celebrating.
There was a big group of Latinos, the Juntas Patriotas, about 14,000 members or so donating whatever little they had to support Benito Juarez’s cause. They wanted to see this version of Mexico, one free of European influence, one which could eventually become a sovereign nation.
With this history in mind, we usually close our businesses on this day. We do this partly because we respect the significance of the date, but mostly, we do it because certain people tend to behave like… idiots.
Which is unfair to those who truly want to eat our food on that day.
So, this year, we decided to change course. We hosted a special Cinco de Mayo event at De Noche to honor this day. We celebrated with Barbacoa de Borrego, Aguachile, Coctel de Camarones, fresh masa, and more.
After all, this is a day to celebrate. But as with everything, Con Respeto.