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This marks the renowned holiday commonly referred to as Cinco de Mayo, or the Battle of Puebla. Contrary to popular belief, this day does not celebrate Mexican independence, but instead the triumph of a small group of soldiers who successfully defeated a French battalion twice its size near the city of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Cinco de Mayo honours this defeat, and commemorates its role in the overthrow of the Mexican Imperial Monarchy.

Cinco de Mayo's history has its roots in the French Occupation of Mexico. The French occupation took shape in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. With this war, Mexico entered a period of national crisis during the 1850's. Years of not only fighting the Americans but also a Civil War, had left Mexico devastated and bankrupt. On July 17, 1861, President Benito Juarez issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for a brief period of two years, with the promise that after this period, payments would resume.

This holiday is celebrated throughout the country, but of course Puebla is the place to go for enjoying the most spectacular fiesta. When parades start moving, the first band starts a lively marching tune. Marchers dressed as French and Mexican generals lead the way with soldiers following, armed like the original freedom fighters with machetes and old-fashioned rifles.

Some of them wearing skirts and flowery hats represent the women (soldaderos) who traveled with the army to cook and care for the men. Those portraying French soldiers carry knapsacks with wine bottles sticking out of them. At mid-afternoon the "battle" begins in the plaza. Rifles and cannon roar, there is much smoke and shouting, and at nightfall, the Mexican and French generals meet face-to-face for a sword battle.

The Mexican general, of course, wins. The fiesta also includes speeches by government officials, lively dances and games, mariachi music, traditional foods, bullfights, and colorful decorations. At night there are pinatas for the children and the celebration ends with beautiful displays of fireworks.

Cinco de Mayo is a great time regardless where you are visiting in Mexico, but a visit to the colonial city of Peubla is a special treat you'll not soo be forgetting.