After the 1846 Mexican-American War, in which boundaries were clarified after Texas became the 28th U.S. state, Mexico entered a period of political and financial hardship. The Mexican civil war lasted from 1858 to 1861 and left Mexico without a stable support structure. To supplement a deflated economy, Mexico borrowed a great deal of money from other countries. Among those countries were England, Spain and France.
In 1862, all three European powers came to collect. Their navies arrived in Mexico to demand payment and land to settle the debts, but Mexico offered vouchers instead, essentially asking for more time. England and Spain accepted and went home; France invaded, seeking total control of Mexico.
Under Napoleon III, French troops began at the shore and tried to make their way to Mexico City. Before they could get to the capital, they were stopped at the state of Puebla, where a major battle took place on May 5, 1862: La Batalla de Puebla.
Outnumbered and outarmed, the Mexican soldiers at Puebla, under the command of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, managed to defeat the French forces. Ultimately, the Mexican victory at Puebla only delayed the French invasion of Mexico city, and a year later, the French occupied Mexico. But the Mexican men who fought at Puebla nonetheless defied the odds to defend its independence. Cinco de Mayo celebrates that bravery and determination, and commemorates Mexico's fight to ward off imperialist forces.