President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden welcomed Beatriz Gutiérrez Mueller de López Obrador, wife of the President of Mexico, to the White House Thursday in honor of Cinco de Mayo.
“Mexican-American culture is a great contribution to America,” the president said at the Rose Garden ceremony, adding later that the ties between the two countries are “further strengthened by our shared history and heritage, our culture, our pride, and the countless contributions of Mexican Americans.
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of the Mexican army on May 5, 1862 against the French in the midst of the Franco-Mexican War. The victory was short-lived, as Mexico did not achieve full independence from French occupation until 1867. Cinco de Mayo does not mark Mexico’s Independence Day – which falls in September – but rather the unexpected and symbolic victory in Puebla, where the battle took place. .
Today, the day is primarily celebrated by Mexican Americans and those from the United States as a nod to Mexican culture and heritage. It is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, with the exception of celebrations held in the state of Puebla.
“Cinco de Mayo is a day to celebrate freedom and resilience,” Biden said. “And you know, it’s also a day to celebrate friendship.”
The president then spoke about the relationship between the United States and Mexico, fondly recalling the visit of President Andres Manuel López Obrador to the White House last November.
“He pointed […] a large portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt hanging on the wall and he told me he loved Roosevelt because he was a president who initiated the policy of good neighborliness between our two nations,” Biden recalled of the visit. “I told him that today the United States and Mexico are more than good neighbors. We are true friends, true partners.
“There is an unshakeable bond reinforced by mutual respect and our shared commitment to the prosperity and security of our two nations. (Mexico) is not our backyard. This is our front yard,” the president added, before welcoming Mexico’s first lady to the Oval Office to see the portrait for herself.
Biden and López Obrador spoke last Friday, when the two leaders agreed in a phone call to do more to promote “just, humane and effective efforts to reduce irregular migration” on the southern border, the House reported. Blanche after their conversation of almost an hour. .
Biden briefly touched on the topic Thursday, calling on Congress to pass legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for many immigrants.
“If Congress doesn’t act on broader reform, let’s pass the bills that had bipartisan support — for Dreamers and temporarily protected-status farm workers, essential workers,” the president said. “It’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s economical, it’s also a smart thing to do.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.