Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Cinco de Mayo

or Mis-understood 2nd World History...

Today is Cinco de Mayo, which, based upon the totally un-scientific polling of some of my office-mates is completely misunderstood. The KC Star article echoed the sentiments expressed any many articles I discovered. This is not the biggest holiday South-of-the-Border. Maybe in the top five.

So, a little history.

NO, Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexican New Years. (I swear, I heard that from three different people...)
No, Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexican 'Independence Day'. (Apparently, that was back in 1810, but nobody bothered to tell the Spanish garrison troops for another eight years...)

No, as this article articulates ;-) this holiday is all about another European Empirical adventure in the New World. And it has almost as much to do with US History as with Mexican.

Napoleon III had more than just collection of debts owed by the new Benito Juarez government which had recently ousted Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. (If you Remember the Alamo, you surely remember him.) The French invaded Mexico with the finest modern equipment and with a newly reconstituted Foreign Legion. The French were not afraid of anyone, especially since the United States was embroiled in its own Civil War. Leading the invading force was H.I.M. Maximiliano I, by the grace of God and will of the people, Emperor of Mexico. That's right folks, a Habsburg Dynasty right here in North America!

Luckily for all of us, an army of 4000 Mexican regulars and militia led by Texas-born General Zaragosa, (with a cavalry under the command of Colonel Porfirio Diaz, later to be Mexico's president and dictator) awaited the advancing 8000 French troops at Puebla, Mexico, 100 miles east of Mexico City on the morning of May 5, 1862.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Now, as some of the modern Mexicans observe, this may be more of an excuse to sell Mexican adult beverages here North of the Rio Grande, but I do think it is worth noting.

It is not just our fine English and Dutch progenitors that have left us with a well-deserved reticence regarding the Franko-phones.

No, even the Mexicans have entire holidays dedicated to Defeating the French!