Cinco de Mayo is a date that commemorates the Battle of Puebla, Mexico of 1862 in which the Mexican troops triumphed over the French army.
To understand this date better it is necessary to understand a little of the history of Mexico. In 1821 Mexico gained independence from Spain. However, the Mexican government had incurred large debts with France among other European countries during the wars of 1846-48 (with the United States) and 1860 (a civil war). Mexico could not pay its debts immediately and in response, the French government sent its troops to Mexico to establish its own monarchical government. To reach the city of Mexico the troops had to pass through Puebla, a city two hours east of Mexico City. In Puebla, General Zaragoza and his Mexican troops managed to defeat the French army on May 5th giving rise to the name of this holiday. This was achieved even though the French were much more numerous. Today Cinco de Mayo is celebrated with military parades called desfiles and a lot of food, songs and dancing. Many traditional Mexican dishes are also served such as tamales. People also wear traditional clothes and at night there are fireworks. In recent years, Cinco de Mayo has become very popular in the United States as a general celebration of democracy, patriotism and latin culture.