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05052013-1Last week, President Obama headed across the border to Mexico and Costa Rica. His trip included a visit with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Officially, they discussed economic cooperation between the neighboring countries. However, Mexico and the United States must also face immigration and drug violence together.

05052013-8This week Mexico will again be on many minds as people celebrate Cinco de Mayo (May 5) with fiestas and Mexican food. There is more to Cinco de Mayo than burritos and salsa music. This week, learn more about Mexico’s history. Discover what Cinco de Mayo commemorates, the historical context of the event, why it is an historic moment of pride, and something about the figures behind Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo—

05052013-2Cinco de Mayo is one of Mexico’s most important historical celebrations. It is not Mexico’s Independence Day. Instead, Cinco de Mayo commemorates a decisive and unlikely victory in Mexico’s fight to maintain its independence. Watch a short video and then scroll through a short PowerPoint presentation to discover what country Mexico was fighting and how the holiday is observed.

05052013-3Delve a little deeper into the historical context of Cinco de Mayo: What pretense did the French use to invade Mexico and what was their goal? What was the United States’ response to the invasion? Why was Mexico vulnerable to an invasion? How long did the French occupation last and how did it end?

05052013-4For a trip back in time, visit the online exhibit, Mexico: From Empire to Revolution. This collection of captioned photographs will transport you to Mexico during the French intervention. Read about the French Intervention and the New Empire. There are six sections, each represented by a small square in the upper right margin. Be sure to read and to explore the first, second, and fifth sections. Read the entire entry for each; use the arrows at the bottom of the text to scroll down. After reading, turn your attention to the photographs. Each section contains between two and fifteen photographs. Thumbnails of the images are displayed across the screen. Click one to enlarge it. Scroll over the book icon under the enlarged photograph to reveal its caption. In the first section, be sure to view the photo of Puebla, where the Battle of Puebla took place. It is, after all, the whole reason for Cinco de Mayo.  

05052013-5Three men stand behind Mexico’s struggle to maintain its independence. Benito Juarez was President of Mexico in 1862 when the French invaded. Watch the video, Mexico: The Battle for North America: The Rise of Benito Juarez. General Ignacio Zaragoza led the outnumbered Mexican forces against the French. History has proclaimed Zaragoza a hero. And then there is Emperor Maximilian, the Austrian Archduke who became emperor after Juarez was ousted. Today, he is depicted as the villain, but perhaps it is not this neat.

05052013-7May 5, 2013 marks the 151st anniversary of Cinco de Mayo. Over time, Cinco de Mayo has graduated an important but little known Mexican battle, to a commercialized celebration of Mexican pride devoid of a connection to it historic event. The infographic, Cinco de Mayo: by the numbers, displays how the celebration has grown in the United States. Cinco de Mayo History Short of Beer, Long on Bloodshed further examines the evolution of this holiday. Cinco de Mayo is not a holiday in Mexico, but in 2005, it was added to the list of official American holidays. Does this surprise you? What explanations are there for its growing American popularity? If you live in North, Central, or South America and are looking for a reason to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, consider this: it marks the last time a European country has invaded a country in the Americas.