OPINION: Around the world, including in New Zealand, thousands of Mexican restaurants announce great food and drink promotions and fiesta time in celebration of the "Cinco de Mayo", though very few people know exactly what it signifies.
It is not the commemoration of the Independence of Mexico as is the common belief, as this is in fact celebrated on September 15.
Probably, Cinco de Mayo (May 5) are the only three words that President Obama says in perfect Spanish when celebrating the occasion in the United States!
Here is what happened: On the Cinco de Mayo of 1862, Mexicans witnessed the victory of the Batalla de Puebla (the Battle of Puebla) by the small, poorly armed and outfitted Mexican militia, already exhausted by domestic conflicts, over the rich and famous, fully equipped army of Napoleon III, during the French intervention in Mexico. At the time, Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza stated in his official report to the Mexican Minister of War: "The national arms, Minister, have been draped in glory".
We, Mexicans, won this battle in 1862, but subsequently, the foreign intervention took place. The struggle continued until 1867, when the Nation was restored by the highly developed sense of national unity, identity and consciousness, boosted by that success from five years previously. This triumph marks the resurgence of a new and solid Nation.
Historians say that this event was also significant for the United States because the victory prompted Napoleon III to send to Mexican territory the French troops who were to be deployed to support the "Southerners" against the "Northerners" during the American Civil War that was also developing in 1862.
The defeat of the powerful French troops on the Cinco de Mayo, put the plans of Napoleon III for the United States back a full year. This event, therefore, might have made an important contribution to the outcome of the American Civil War.
This year, the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Cinco de Mayo for Mexicans around the world, is the reaffirmation of the spirit of our national identity that, just as in 1862, has proven that united and hand in hand, we can face the worst adversities that might threaten, once again, to undermine the Nation, democracy, the respect of others' rights and the enforcement of the rule of law.
It is an opportunity to remember the principles emanating from that heroic deed that now govern Mexican national and international commitments: respect for the self-determination of peoples; non-intervention; pacific settlement of disputes; refraining in international relations from threats or use of force; equal rights of States; international co-operation for development and maintaining international peace and security.
* Leonora Rueda is Mexicos ambassador to New Zealand.