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The true history behind Cinco de Mayo
The Battle of Puebla
Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not actually Mexico's independence day, which falls on September 16. Instead, Cinco de Mayo commemorates a historical event known as the Battle of Puebla, fought between Mexico and France on May 5, 1862.

"Mexico owed France, along with Spain and England, a lot of money. The three countries sent troops to Mexico to demand payment," according to ABC News. "Spain and England reached an agreement and left, but the French set out to attack Mexican forces in Puebla."
Although Mexico won the battle, the country was still conquered by the French less than a year later. Still, the battle energized residents of Mexico with a renewed sense of national pride.
Cinco de Mayo was declared a national holiday but remains a relatively minor one in Mexico. The holiday, though, became immensely more popular in the U.S., due in part to Mexican immigration, according to the U.S. News & World Report: "Over time the date came to be a showcase of Mexican ethnic identity rather than a celebration of the battle against the invading French forces."