Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cinco de Mayo

Today is Cinco de Mayo and it may surprise some to find out that it is celebrated more in the United States than it is in Mexico. College kids in the United States celebrate Cinco de Mayo because they like to party. Most of us think Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day, but that is an error. Cinco de Mayo is a national holiday in Mexico, but it is considered a minor holiday. It would not surprise me if the Mexican youth started to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with mucho gusto, because it is so popular in the United States. Mexico actually celebrates their Independence Day on September 16th.

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla de Los Angeles on May 5, 1862. When Benito Juarez became President of Mexico in 1861, Mexican finances were a shambles. Mexico owed a lot of money to Spain, France and England. Each of the three foreign countries sent their navy to Veracruz. Juarez and his government were forced to move out of the city. Mexico was able to reach an accommodation with Spain and England, but not with France. France was ruled by Napoleon III at the time.

France attacked the city of Puebla de Los Angeles with about 6,000 soldiers who were led by General Charles Latrille de Lorencez. Juarez got Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza to assemble a rag-tag militia to defend against the French.  France lost about 500 soldiers while the Mexicans lost less than 100 in a three hour battle and the French withdrew. Cinco de Mayo is still a big celebration in Puebla, which was renamed Puebla de Zaragoza.

This was not the end of the war, but the battle created an enthusiasm amongst the Mexican people that bolstered their resistance. Napoleon appointed the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximillian as emperor of Mexico. Six years after the battle of Puebla, Maximillian was captured by the Mexican resistance and France was forced to withdraw their forces from Mexico.

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