I was listening to Eric “Bubba Bo” Boulanger the other night on XM Radio talking about Cinco de Mayo and how it was Mexico’s Independence Day (or something like that) and realized that most people don’t realize what Cinco de Mayo is about. To most, it’s about a night of drinking and listening to Americanized Tex-Mex music and partying until the bars close.
Our friend who publishes the website MEXFILES.NET and an acclaimed author and editor in his own right, found an obscure article from the New York Times dated June 13, 1863
Normally I wouldn’t steal an entire articles from a newspaper, but I’ll make an exception this once. Notice how long it took to get the news in those days — and that the New York Times, always a conservative paper when it comes to spelling and word usage, still used British spelling in the 1860s.
Besides just the surprise of the crappy, ad-hoc Mexican army beating what was then considered the best military force in the world, there was another reason Cinco de Mayo was a BFD in the United States long before it was “discovered” by beer distributors and politicians pandering for the Hispanic vote: the United States was in the middle of a large-scale organized insurgency seeking to create a break-away southern republic. Some claim Zaragoza and his army saved the Union.
France and Britain were ostensibly neutral, but the governments in both of the two superpowers openly supported the Confederacy — not only because they wanted favorable terms for buying U.S. (Confederate) cotton for their mills, but because they suspected (rightly, as it turned out) that a strong United States would rival their own economic and political hegemony. At the time, something everyone forgets is that the United States was sort of seen by the European monarchies sort of the way today’s major powers see China… an up and coming superpower, with a weird political system and not to be trusted. Even if the Confederate insurgency was contained, a pro-European Mexico would have meant the United States was surrounded by enemy (or at least unfriendly rival) states.
Neither British-controlled Canada on the northern borders of the United States, nor the British and French Caribbean possessions had the facilities to provide more than token assistance to the insurgency. A European-puppet state in Mexico, under French tutelage, would have permitted France openly to support the insurgent Confederacy, and the British to openly conduct business with the rebel government and, channel military and economic “assistance” through the Mexican “Empire” supposedly ruled by Queen Victoria’s cousin and her none-too-bright Hapsburg hubby.
Luckily for the United States, what happened on 5 May 1862 meant the French had to commit 30,000 troops to Mexico, and spend a year bogged down just trying to take back this one city. More than enough time for the United States to push back the insurgency from the South, which would manage to mount one last major offensive into Gettysburg Pennsylvania two months later, and then, effectively, collapse from lack of support.
Included from this articles are dispatches and orders between the Generals in the field and then citizen President Benito Juarez.
The header reads;
IMPORTANT FROM MEXICO.; Detailed Account of the Surrender of Puebla. Official Order from General Ortega. His Announcement of the Surrender. REPLY FROM THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT. A PROCLAMATION BY JUAREZ. The City of Mexico to be Defended. We translate from the monthly review of the Heraldo of Mexico City the following account of the surrender of Puebla, the general order of ORTEGA, his correspondence with the Minister at War, and the proclamation of President JUAREZ:
This link will take you to the Mexican Historical Societies celebration of the 150th anniversary of the battle with video, documents and other things of interest to those of us who have an interest.