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viernes, mayo 04, 2007

Cinco de Mayo: A Retelling

cross posted at daily Kos

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Cinco de Mayo, May 5, is not Mexican Independence Day (that's 9/16). Cinco de Mayo is a commemoration of the May 5, 1862 Battle of Puebla. So, before you rush off to the fiestas, the food and the drinks, a brief telling of the stories seems an important prerequisite.

What? You didn't hear the story of Cinco de Mayo in high school or college? You thought it was an invention of the beer companies? Wrong. Here's the story (two versions)

First, there's this version of events (which I like best and which I've re-written).
French, Spanish and English troops invaded Mexico in early 1862 allegedly to collect debts from the newly, democratically elected government of Benito Jurarez. The English and Spanish made deals and left; the French under Emperor Napoleon III decided to stay andoccupy the country.

Maximilian, a Hapsburg prince, and his wife, Carlota, were to rule Mexico, and the French army left Veracruz to try to topple Mexico City. The French, we're told, though that if the capital fell, the Mexicans would surrender to French rule.

Under the command of General Zaragoza and with a cavalry commanded by Colonel Porfirio Diaz, who would later become dictator, Mexican army of about 4,000 troops waited at Puebla.

As the French approached with twice as many troops, Zaragosa ordered Diaz to take his cavalry to the flank of the French army. The French made an enormous tactical mistake. They sent their cavalry chase Diaz, who turned with a far superior cavalry, and routed them. The French infantry then charged the Mexican defenders through the mud-- there had been a thunderstorm-- and through hundreds of head of cattle stirred up by Indians who were armed only with machetes. The Mexicans, though greatly outmanned, won a decisive victory.

In 1862 the Civil War was raging in the US. The Mexican victory kept Napoleon III from supplying the confederate rebels for at least another year. The Battle of Gettysburg, essentially ending the Civil War, was 14 months after the battle of Puebla. And thus, the argument that Mexico's Battle of Puebla victory actually won the US Civil War for the North. But I digress.

Then there's this Wiki of the Battle of Puebla. It appears to be more of a military history and claims authenticity. I wasn't there, so I can't say. But, alas, it calls my story "unsubstantiated." No flanking cavalries. No infantry mired in mud and stampeding cattle. No Indians armed only with machetes. I just don't care. I prefer the former. I mean, if you're going to have a really great party, let's get rid of the Wiki's "moral victory" argument and that snark that the story "did not require mythical, romantic screenplay scenarios." Bah! I'm sticking with the mud and stampeding cattle and Indians armed only with machetes.

Viva Mexico! Viva Cinco de Mayo!

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2 Comments:

Blogger colin said...

I came across your site while doing a blog search for Cinco De Mayo.

I was one of the Americans who was unaware that May 5 wasn't the Mexican Independence day. I was very interested to learn otherwise. Great article.

11:52 a.m.  
Blogger Tai said...

As someone who learned the Mexican hat dance practically before she could walk, I thank you for this primer on 5 de Mayo. In Los Angeles, they taught us how to make corn tortillas in 1st grade, but they never went over the fine points of la historia.

10:39 p.m.  

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