Happy Cinco de Mayo to everyone from BRIClanguage.com! I hope you are having a safe and very fun holiday! As I was celebrating today at Rosa Mexicano, I started asking the question, what are we actually celebrating? As expected, like St. Patrick’s Day, most people use this as an excuse to drink without knowing the actual meaning behind the holiday. At BRIC, while we do like to celebrate, we also want to know why we are celebrating. So, for those of you who don’t know, here is some Mexican history.
Cinco de Mayo began with the French occupation of Mexico. This took place following several wars including the Mexican-American War, Mexican Civil War, and Reform War. The Mexican Treasury was nearly bankrupt in the aftermath. In 1867 Mexican President Benito Juárez decided to put a hold on all foreign debt payments. France, Britain, and Spain all sent naval forces to demand repayment. Britain and Spain negotiated and withdrew. France on the other hand, ruled by Napoleon III, decided to use the “premier army of the world” to invade Mexico in order to establish a Latin empire in Mexico.
In late 1861 the well-armed French fleet landed in Veracruz with 8,000 troops and began their march towards Mexico City. Near Puebla, at the Mexican forts of Loreto and Guadalupe, the French Army encountered heavy resistance. While under-equipped, and undermanned, the Mexican Army of just 4,000 troops fought valiantly to defend their homeland. On May 5, 1862 they crushed the French Army in a decisive defeat. This was the first time the French had been defeated in 50 years.
It was not the last time the Mexicans would see of the French however; just 1 year later the French overtook Mexico City and installed Emperor Maximilian I as the ruler of Mexico. This victory, and the French Latin American Empire were also short-lived. French rule lasted only 3 years, from 1864 to 1867. Facing a stiff Mexican guerilla resistance, backed by US political and military assistance, and facing war with Prussia the French Army began its withdrawal in 1866. The Mexicans retook Mexico City and on June 5, 1867 Benito Juárez re-installed his legitimate government.
I’ll raise my glass to you Benito Juárez, Cheers! Salud! Happy Cinco de Mayo!