Accompanied by brass bands and flag-waving school children, members of Mexico’s military celebrated the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Puebla on Sunday, marking the country’s Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Speaking during the ceremony, which was also attended by President Vicente Fox, Gen. Rigoberto Castellejos Adriano said the battle “demonstrated to the world our wish to exist as a free and sovereign nation.”
“The Battle of Puebla shows that Mexico knows how to resolve with determination and strength its problems and the most adverse situations,” he said. “It shows that with unity and patriotism as Mexicans, we have overcome the most difficult circumstances that throughout time have tested our will.”
The celebration marked the day when, on May 5, 1862, Mexican soldiers defeated French troops in Puebla, a colonial town 65 miles southeast of Mexico City.
A year later, however, troops sent by Napoleon III took control of Mexico City, forcing the government of Benito Juarez to flee.
Not even an official holiday in Mexico, May 5 is barely recognized by most Mexicans living south of the Rio Grande. But those living in the United States have adopted the date as a holiday to celebrate their heritage with everything from backyard picnics to street fairs.
On Saturday, President Bush celebrated Cinco de Mayo by praising immigrants for their “strong values and their determination to create a better life for themselves and their children.”