Mon Dieu! There’s a French Design Story Behind the May 5 Festivities

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Cinco de Mayo is one of those embarrassing holidays that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to many Americans who celebrate it. (St. Patrick’s Day anyone?) While it’s generally an excuse to have a margarita and eat guacamole, there is a fairly common misconception that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of independence in Mexico. In reality, May 5 commemorates the Mexican army’s unexpected 1862 victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla. While the holiday has little significance outside of the Mexican state of Puebla and the United States (where it has really become more of a celebration of Mexican pride), it does bear some importance in terms of a relatively little-known era in Mexico’s past. The French intervention in Mexico lasted only six years — from 1861 to 1867 — but the influence of the French on Mexican culture was more far reaching. French colonial and baroque styles in particular greatly impacted Mexican architecture and design well into the 20th century. These subtle (and not so subtle) elements reveal another side to the Cinco de Mayo story. Here are 9 design influences the French left behind: