Mexico defeats France. It sounds like a World Cup final match, but it isn’t. Instead, it’s Cinco de Mayo — the commemoration of the defeat of an invading French Goliath by a fierce Mexican David. 

It’s the evidence that Latin America has fought imperialism for decades and that, in Puebla, we won.    

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Cinco de Mayo marks the 1862 Battle of Puebla when 2,000 Mexican soldiers sent a 6,000-strong invading French army on the run.

The retreat of the French troops, including the elite French legionnaires, at Puebla represents, to this day, a moral victory for the people of Mexico. 

The victory was short-lived 

It postponed the imposition by the French of Maximilian I as Emperor of Mexico for only a year.

Yet, it symbolizes Mexico’s and the rest of Latin America’s ability and willingness to defend its sovereignty against a powerful foreign nation.

And we are still waging a battle against a United States hegemony that treats Latin America as its property.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine, a colonial doctrine by which the U.S. claimed Latin America as its imperial backyard. 

The doctrine boiled down to keeping European colonial interests out of Washington’s dominance in the Western Hemisphere. 

In a nutshell, this region is mine; you can’t have it.

Recently, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, put it clearly. 

“The U.S. State Department [has] the bad habit, always, they meddle in affairs that don’t involve them,” AMLO said.

“They still will not abandon the two-century-old policy, the Monroe Doctrine, of thinking of themselves as the world’s government,” he said.

It makes this Cinco de Mayo, and the defeat of imperialist forces, even more special. 

So, let’s give the sacrosanct day its historical context 

That context involves the United States’ regional expansion (again, here comes the Monroe Doctrine) and France’s quest to have a piece of the pie. 

Those pesky imperialist powers and their spheres of influence. 

It was the early 1860s. The U.S. was knee-deep in a Civil War. Mexico had gone through the Mexican-American War — the American intervention in Mexico that resulted in the annexation of Texas — and the War of the Reform

In 1861, Benito Juarez became president and inherited a financially ruined Mexico. It owed a considerable national debt to several European countries, including France. 

As a result, Emperor Napoleon III — nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte — saw his chance to expand his empire and carve a dependent empire out of Mexican territory to control trade across the Atlantic and in Europe.  

He attacked using the debt as an excuse. Sound familiar? 

But the French forces only made it to Puebla and were turned back by the Mexican troops led by General Ignacio Zaragoza. 

The battle at Puebla raged from daybreak to early evening. When the French General Charles de Lorencez realized his superior French force was losing, he withdrew his defeated army.

In Spanish parlance — le dieron de pasta y queso a los franceses. 

Today, Cinco de Mayo is one of the most commercialized holidays in the United States and one of the most misunderstood 

It’s a day when we Latinos gird our loins to endure sombrero-wearing newscasters and comedians clutching a bottle of Corona beer and feeling — well, Mexican. 

It is the one day where cries of “build that wall” are drowned out by orders of taquitos with salsa, please. 

Who can forget when ABC’s Lara Spencer, wearing a sombrero and swishing a margarita, had to apologize for labeling Cinco de Mayo as “Cinco de Drinko” on a “Good Morning America” segment

Many confuse it with Mexican Independence Day from Spain, but that happened September 16th, 1821, or the Mexican Revolution of 1910. 

It has nothing to do with that. Nor is it a day to sell more beer, quesadillas, and guacamole. 

Americans should educate themselves about Cinco de Mayo. They should know what the day means.

It would let them know that if it hadn’t been for the underdog victory of the Mexican soldiers, Emperor Napoleon III probably would have aided the Confederacy in winning the American Civil War.

So, the U.S. owes much to the Battle of Puebla. Now, that is something to raise a shot of tequila to.