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The history behind Cinco De Mayo

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Posted at 5:43 PM, May 05, 2022

Thursday, May 5, marked the 160th anniversary of Cinco De Mayo, the day Mexico defeated France in the Battle of Puebla.

The victory is notable because of the disparity between the two armies. “Poorly trained army of Mexicans were able to defeat a much larger French force," Cameron Jones, a professor in Cal Poly's history department said, "It was quite an astounding victory, it surprised many people that they were able to do this.” 

Shortly after the victory, Mexico's President Benito Juarez declared Cinco de Mayo to be a holiday and it has been celebrated ever since.

The celebration made its way to California very quickly but took on a new meaning in the 20th century.

“It became a huge thing in the United States specifically in the 1950s with the rise of the Chicano movement kind of a way to celebrate Mexican heritage in the United States,” said Jones.

The holiday is now bigger in California than in Mexico with local businesses like Efren's Mexican Restaurant seeing a boom in sales.

"Every year, all the people wait for this day anxiously," said Misael Alvarez, the co-owner of Efren's, "a lot of companies buy food for their workers. Our sales go up 35 percent.”

While Californians are likely to eat tacos on Cinco de Mayo, a more traditional dish is Mole. This is a sauce made from chocolate, chilies and other spices typically served with chicken.