Little Bits of History

Cinco de Mayo

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 5, 2013
The  Battle of Puebla painting

The Battle of Puebla painting

May 5, 1862: The Battle of Puebla is fought near Puebla, Mexico. In 1861, Napoleon III had visions of an expanding empire. He not only wished to control all of Europe, but the New World looked promising as well. Mexico owed debts to Great Britain, Spain, and France so Napoleon sent troops to collect the money. Mexican President Benito Juarez announced a cancellation of debts and refused to pay anything to European nations. French troops landed at Veracruz on December 8, 1861.

The Treaty of London had been signed in 1861 by Great Britain, Spain, and France and all three nations sent troops to force Juarez to honor his debts. By April of 1862, both Britain and Spain felt the French armies were not trying to force repayment of debts, but were trying to conquer Mexico and establish a foothold in Central America. The Spanish and British troops left while the French remained and continued their “intervention” in Mexico which was called the Maximilian Affair.

French forces were supposed to withdraw to the coast, but many of the soldiers had become ill and remained in the area. The Mexicans thought they had no intention of leaving and wished to continue hostilities in the region. Negotiations offsite had broken down, as well. The battle at Puebla found General Ignacio Zaragoza leading about 4,500 Mexican soldiers, mostly veterans of the Reform Wars of 1857-1860. General Charles de Lorencez led the Second French Empire forces of about 6,000 soldiers. Fighting broke out and while the Mexicans were routed later, on this day they won the battle and a moral victory.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Battle at Puebla. Mexican Independence Day is September 16. While Maximilian I eventually became President of Mexico, it didn’t last and when Juarez regained power, Maximilian was executed. May 5 is not a Mexican national holiday but is celebrated regionally in Mexico. The US holds a greater reverence for the date and hold celebrations in many major cities, especially those with a large Mexican population. The day honors Mexican pride and culture in much the same way that cross cultural celebrants honor Irish pride on one day in March – St. Patrick’s Day.

“Cinco de Mayo has come to represent a celebration of the contributions that Mexican Americans and all Hispanics have made to America.” – Joe Baca

“The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border? “- Pablo Casals

“To me, it seems a dreadful indignity to have a soul controlled by geography.” – George Santayana

“To him in whom love dwells, the whole world is but one family.” – Buddha

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Benito Juarez was born in 1806 in Oaxaca and was from the Zapotec people, an indigenous group from the south of current-day Mexico. He began life in a small adobe home and of peasant birth, became an orphan at the age of three, and was raised by an uncle. He worked the corn fields and as a shepherd until he turned twelve. He left the region and walked to the city of Oaxaca de Juarez to attend school. He took a job as a domestic servant to a lay Franciscan, Antonio Salanueva, who was impressed with the boy’s intelligence and thirst for knowledge. With Salanueva’s help, he was educated in the city’s seminary. He became a lawyer in 1834 and a judge in 1841. He entered politics in 1847 and served first as governor of Oaxaca and then five terms as President of Mexico.

Also on this day Monkey Trial – In 1925 John Scopes was arrested for teaching evolution.
Turning Straw Into Gold – In 1809, the first patent was granted to a woman in the US.
Music Hall – In 1891, what we know as Carnegie Hall opened.

One Response

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on May 5, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    France already was already ruling Mexico and would total over over a hundred years of ruling Mexico. The government of Mexico did not supply any troops to fight the Cinco De Mayo battle because of fear of retaliation by their French rulers- they even executed General Ignacio Zaragoza for desertion because he led NON government troops who were mostly farmers fighting with farm tools. Zaragoza and his peon army succeeded in starting the end of France’s rule of Mexico. Considering that the official government of Mexico refused to send troops against the French at Pueblo Cinco De Mayo is considered a day of disgrace by those in Mexico. In the US Cinco De Mayo is another excuse to party.

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