President Bush hosted a dinner for Hispanic leaders Wednesday on the eve of Cinco de Mayo, the day in which Mexicans celebrate their history and culture.

The president welcomed his quests with a toast to the ties that link Mexico and the United States. "The United States and Mexico are united by ties of family, faith in god and a deep love for freedom," he said.

He spoke of the 25 million men and women of Mexican origin who now live in the United States. He said they are making the nation more vibrant and more hopeful every day.

"Mexican-Americans have enriched the American experience with contributions to music, and dancing and the arts. Latino entrepreneurs are starting their own businesses all across America and are creating jobs and trading in freedom with businesses across borders," he said.

He also emphasized the important role Hispanics have played in the U.S. military, saying they are making America and the world safer. He said they show the courage shown centuries ago by the Mexican soldiers who won a battle against French invaders on May 5th, 1862 - a victory that is commemorated on Cinco de Mayo.

"Here at the White House, the triumph of Cinco de Mayo was recognized by President Abraham Lincoln. And through the generations, Americans have continued to look on our neighbor to the south with fondness and deep respect," he said.

Several Hispanics who hold high-level positions in the Bush administration attended the Cinco de Mayo celebration. Among them was Alberto Gonzales - the first Mexican-American to serve as Attorney General of the United States.