Test your knowledge of Cinco de Mayo

Posted Monday, May. 05, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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For the average Joe or Jane Six-Pack, Cinco de Mayo is little more than a day to take advantage of margarita specials at local bars and restaurants.

The more socially and historically aware, however, remember it is a celebration of the victory of the undermanned, poorly supplied Mexican militia over the powerful French army at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867).

Regardless of which camp you fall in — casual observer, self-described Cinco de Mayo savant or somewhere in between — test your knowledge of the day with this quiz, and see how you scored at the end.

1. In what year did Mexico gain independence from Spain?

a) 1621

b) 1721

c) 1821

d) 1921

2. Why did France, England and Spain send naval forces to Veracruz, Mexico, in 1861?

a) To trade weapons.

b) To sign a peace treaty.

c) To force the Mexican government to pay its debts.

d) To back Mexico in case the American Civil War crossed the southern border.

3. What year did the Battle of Puebla take place?

a) 1861

b) 1862

c) 1863

d) 1864

4. Approximately how many Mexican soldiers fought in the Battle of Puebla?

a) 200

b) 2,000-4,000

c) 20,000

d) 200,000

5. Who was the French emperor during the Battle of Puebla?

a) Napoleon III

b) Charlemagne

c) Joan of Arc

d) Charles de Gaulle

6. Who was Mexico’s president during the Battle of Puebla?

a) Vicente Fox

b) Felipe Calderón

c) Jose Calderon

d) Benito Juárez

7. What do the words “Cinco de Mayo” translate to in English?

a) The fifth of May

b) The five holy days of May

c) Five bottles of beer

d) The Five-Year War

8. Historians widely agree that the Cinco de Mayo holiday originated in what country?

a) Mexico

b) Spain

c) France

d) The United States

9. Cinco de Mayo celebrations are typically characterized by what types of activities?

a) Parades, street festivals and mariachi music performances.

b) Backyard barbecues, church socials and country music performances.

c) River dances, flying fishing and Celtic music performances.

d) Poetry readings, yacht races and classical music performances.

10. What are the colors of the Mexican flag?

a) Green, white and red.

b) Green, yellow and red.

c) Red, yellow and blue.

d) Red, white and purple.

11. When is Mexico’s Independence Day?

a) May 5

b) July 4

c) Sept. 16

d) Jan. 1

12. Which pop star who used to play drums and sing for the rock band Genesis is an avid collector of memorabilia from the Battle of the Alamo?

a) Neal Peart

b) Phil Collins

c) Charlie Watts

d) Peter Criss

13. Much to the surprise of certain younger visitors to the famous battle site, the Texans (then called Texians) lost at the Battle of the Alamo. However, the hard-fought loss served as inspiration in what war-ending battle?

a) The Battle of the Bulge

b) The Battle of San Jacinto

c) The Battle of San Pedro

d) The Battle of Acapulco

14. Which of these famous historical figures was not at the Battle of the Alamo?

a) David Crockett

b) Jim Bowie

c) William B. Travis

d) John Wayne

15. How many states are there in Mexico?

a) 13

b) 31

c) 50

d) 100


1. C. 1821. It was a result of the Mexican War of Independence, which lasted from Sept. 16, 1810, to Sept. 27, 1821.

2. C. To force the Mexican government to pay its debts. England and Spain returned home after realizing that France also planned to conquer Mexico.

3. B. 1862. The French attacked Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico.

4. B. 2,000-4,000. The Mexican soldiers were victorious over approximately 6,000 Frenchmen.

5. A. Napoleon III. He was the nephew and heir of the far more famous Napoleon I. The French forces were led into battle by Gen. Charles de Lorencez.

6. D. Benito Juárez. The Mexican forces were led into battle by Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza.

7. A. The fifth of May. The Battle of Puebla took place on May 5.

8. D. The United States. Most historians believe the holiday was born in California during the American Civil War as a reaction to Mexican resistance against French occupation.

9. A. Parades, street festivals and mariachi music performances. Mexican food, margaritas and beer often play a role as well.

10. A. Green, white and red. The current design was adopted Sept. 16, 1968, and confirmed by law on Feb. 24, 1984.

11. C. Sept. 16. Since the Mexican War of Independence began on Sept. 16, 1810, Sept. 16 is recognized as Mexico’s Independence Day. Sept. 27 is widely celebrated as well since the war ended Sept. 27, 1821.

12. B. Phil Collins. Owner of one of the largest private collections of Alamo memorabilia in the world, Collins authored The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector’s Journey (2012, State House Press).

13. B. The Battle of San Jacinto. Led by Gen. Sam Houston, the Texans defeated Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna’s Mexican army on April 21, 1836.

14. D. John Wayne. Although he played Davy Crockett in the 1960 film The Alamo, Wayne was an actor, not a fighter (he never served in the military). And he was born in 1907, more than 70 years after the battle.

15. B. 31. Mexico has 31 states, plus the federal district of Mexico City (similar to Washington, D.C., in the U.S.).

How did you score?

0-5 Points: Umm … you’ve heard of Mexico, right? It’s that little country just to the south of us.

6-10 Points: Not bad, not bad, but perhaps you should vacation in Mexico this year — ya know, get the lay of the land, maybe absorb some of the culture.

11-14 Points: Well done, El Presidente — have a drink on us!

15 Points: Viva Mexico!

Sources: latinamericanhistory.about.com; www.history.com; news.nationalgeographic.com; www.britannica.com

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