Little known fact, today is NOT actually the Mexican independence day (which is in September), rather it is anniversary of a victory over French soldiers in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. This battle only slowed down the French, though, who would occupy Mexico City just one year later. Moreover, Cinco de Mayo is not celebrated throughout Mexico. Although it is commemorated in the state of Puebla where the battle took place it is really an American holiday that spread from Southern California to tex-mex chain restaurants around the country. Americans took to the holiday because it brought together our disparate loves for salsa, pinatas and seeing the French lose at stuff.
(A version of this post originally ran in this space on May 5, 2008)