Is Cinco de Mayo the Mexican version of Independence Day? If your answer is yes, then let's offer a brief history lesson.
Frequently confused with the nation's day of independence — which is on September 16 — the Mexican holiday is in observance of the Mexican army's victory in the 1862 battle of the Battle of Puebla against France in the French-Mexican War.
Celebrated on its namesake, the fifth of May, the inception of the holiday can be traced back a year to 1861 when Benito Juarez became president of Mexico. As the country was in financial distress, Juarez was forced to default his debts to various European governments.
Three European nations stormed the city of Veracruz, Mexico to demand reimbursement from Mexico. Britain and Spain eventually came to an agreement and left; France, however, made attempts to form a dependent empire from Mexican territory through the leadership of Napoleon III.
Late in 1861, French fleets landed at Veracruz. With such a strong force, President Juarez and his government were forced to retreat. Confident of victory, the French troops — numbering 6,000 — made their way to the tiny town of Puebla de Los Angeles to strike.
Meanwhile, in a new station set up in the north, Juarez gathered about 2,000 faithful men and sent them toward Puebla. While the numbers and supplies paled in comparison to the French, Texas-born leader General Ignacio Zaragoza led the men to fortify the town and prepare to attack.
On May 5, 1862, the heavily prepared French army began their assault on Puebla from the north. Beginning at sunrise, the French finally retreated in the early evening, losing around 500 men in contrast to the less than 100 Mexicans that were killed.
The win was rather miniscule in light of the overall French-Mexican War, as France actually won the overall conflict and ruled Mexico for the next five years before withdrawing. However, the victory at Puebla was both physical and moral, strengthening Mexican resistance.
Today in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in the state of Puebla where the nation's victory took place. In the US, the holiday mainly commemorates the Mexican culture and heritage in areas with high Mexican-American populations. Parties, parades, mariachis, cultural dancing and Mexican food typically mark the holiday celebrations.
Locally, Cinco de Mayo festivities will take place as well. On May 5, Roscoe resident Aida Pantoja will perform Mexican dancing at two area senior citizen facilities. She will be at Nolan Nursing and Rehab at 9 a.m., followed by an appearance at Sweetwater Healthcare Center at 10:30 a.m.
Pantoja will also be performing on Saturday, May 7 at the Cinco de Mayo celebration in Roscoe along with other dancers from the local Catholic church, in conjunction with other events planned throughout the day.
Starting at 10:30 a.m. in downtown Roscoe, a parade line up will take place at the AUP building. All floats are welcomed to participate in the parade, which will begin at 11 a.m., concluding at the Roscoe Community Center.
Also participating in the parade will be the Spanish classes from Highland led by Mrs. Petty. Students will participate for extra credit and hold flags in the parade while dressed in cultural attire.
Vendors will be on hand for the Cinco de Mayo celebration and are welcome to participate free of charge during the day. The event will wrap up with a dance in downtown Roscoe from 6-10 p.m. with entertainment provided by Tropicalisimo Fantasia.
The musical guests are based in Abilene and are well-known in the community from their gigs at quinceaneras and weddings. Fantasia also features a Roscoe native in the group, bringing community ties to the event.
For more information on the Roscoe Cinco de Mayo gathering, please contact Aida Pantoja at 721-1568.