Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo holiday: What really happened? What are they NOT telling you?
The battle of Puebla, better known as the battle of Cinco de Mayo, is a ceremonial and historical holiday in Mexico. Basically, it is a strong reminder that once upon a time in 1862, the Mexican army, vastly outnumbered by the enemy, defeated an apparently stronger French army. All this is historically accurate, although there are some aspects that history books try to minimize.
What happened, according to official history
Benito Juarez, during his government, at one point suspended all payments towards loans of external debt to England, France and Spain. Then, these countries formed a coalition with intentions to claim such loans, for which they agreed to send troops to Mexico. However, Spain and England accepted a new agreement developed by Mexico with great cordiality. France didn’t, as it intended to invade Mexico in order to enforce a Monarchy.
Accordingly, the French army commanded by Charles Ferdinand Latrille, invaded Mexico in May 1862 with some 6,500 men in charge. The Mexican army commanded by Porfirio Diaz and Ignacio Zaragoza, responded the attack with just 4,500 men. On May 5 of that year, an extremely bloody battle was fought in Puebla, resulting in a historic victory for the Mexican army, with the subsequent withdrawal of the French one.
What most people don’t remember at all
However, the people who celebrate each year the victory of Mexico in the battle of Cinco de Mayo, don’t remember or at least try to forget what happened a year later: in 1863, France would attack Mexico again. Although the exact dates pretty much vary according to the source, everything suggests that it was in March 1863 when the French army began its second affront to the sovereignty of Mexico, culminating in the takeover of Mexico City in July.
This resulted in the rise of the French imperialist period in Mexico from 1863 to 1867. The proclamation of Maximilian of Habsburg as Mexico’s monarch speaks of an evident late victory for France. However, Benito Juarez, during his second presidential term, showed no mercy to him and got him executed on June 19 1867, proving that the battle between liberals and conservatives at that time was indeed deadly and violence was a way to get back and preserve the power.
So, is this a day to celebrate or not?
History is written by the victors, says an old quote. That’s why the battle of Cinco de Mayo is so important and significant for most Mexicans, even though it was a brief victory that lasted for a few months. Millions of people forget what happened less than a year later, as well as the most important and beneficial aspects of European imperialism in Mexico. Therefore, nothing is what it seems.
However, the battle of Cinco de Mayo is a perfect excuse to remember that Mexicans can be brave, not only on a battlefield but in everyday life as well. In fact, it would be great to keep this idea in mind in times like these when Mexican society is so polarized. Degrading one another’s ideas will lead to a new defeat, but standing together is always a sign of victory.