Cinco de May commemorates the May 5, 1862 Battle of Puebla (Batalla de Puebla) in which General Ignacio Zaragoza's Mexican troops defeated Napolean III's French forces. France, along with England and Spain, had occupied Mexico since mid-1861 as a result of President Benito Juarez' moratorium on foreign debt payments. Eventually England and Spain withdrew but the French remained in an attempt to create an empire in Mexico. The French began a military advance on Mexico and on May 5, 1862, about 5,000 Mestizo and Zapotec Indians defeated Napolean's army.
Many people confuse Cinco de Mayo with Mexican Independence Day (September 16, 1810). Cinco de Mayo is celebrated more in the United States than in Mexico and many people of Mexican descent celebrate with parades, music, and dancing.