SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Cinco de Mayo and the Battle of Puebla is very important in Mexican history. In 1862, forces sent by Napoleon III were on the march to Mexico City and encountered the Mexican Army in Puebla. On May 5, they attacked with a large fighting force, using superior weapons. The battle was an inspiration for the Mexican Army and their victory over the French. It helped Mexico become the nation it is today.
In honor of that day, we dug through our collection and found these stories from the 1960s and 1980s of people coming together to celebrate with dance, food and tradition.
Carlsbad elementary students celebrate Cinco de Mayo in 1967
May 5, 1967 Governor Reagan urged all Californians to join in the celebration of the Mexican holiday…and that’s exactly what happened at Pine and Jefferson elementary schools in Carlsbad. The youngsters danced around a maypole and sang Mexican folksongs. Mexicans say Cinco de Mayo is second only to their Independence Day in importance. The celebrating started in the various classes and continued into the after-school hours. The schools invited parents and other interested persons to join in the festivities.
Cinco de Mayo parade in Tijuana, Mexico in 1967
May 5, 1967: Cinco de Mayo commemorates the battle of Puebla, May 5, 1862, when a small army of Mexican soldiers defeated twice their number of well-trained invading French troops. Tijuana officials today said an estimated 100,000 persons turned out for a parade in honor of the holiday. Tijuana Mayor Francisco Lopez Gutierrez reviewed the parade from a city hall balcony. Some 25,000 students, firemen, soldiers and policemen marched in the event, which started at Guerrero Park on F Avenue and Fourth Street. Other events marking the holiday included athletic contests and banquets and speeches honoring two of Mexico’s foremost patriots, President Benito Juarez and General Ignacio Zaragoza. The day was a holiday for all Mexican school children, as well as government employees.
Cinco de Mayo celebration in Old Town San Diego in 1985
The celebrations started off in Old Town with a dance that had a certain amount of risk – for the dancers that is – but somehow the knife dance seemed appropriate when you consider this Cinco de Mayo celebration was born out of battle, said reporter Lorraine Kimel. Those in attendance said it was a good day to celebrate with Spanish-style music and food. It’s a colorful holiday, one with many reminders of the past. It’s also a time to celebrate one happy day in Mexican history.