The Battle of Puebla
Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
I just wanted to wish all my readers a happy Cinco de Mayo. This holiday, which is not a Federal holiday in Mexico, and which many people assume is has something to do with the Mexican Independence Day, or the sinking of shipment of mayonnaise bound for Mexico by a German U-Boat during the First World War actually celebrates something entirely different. It celebrates the defeat of a French Army by Mexican forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5th 1862.
Mexico had already been independent for nearly forty years when this took place. The French had led an intervention in Mexico, and members of the conservative Mexican aristocracy asked Archduke Maximilian of Austria to be the emperor of a new Imperial Mexico, and he agreed, but I digress…
Before Maximilian took over, the French first had to conquer the Mexican Republic, something that most Mexicans rather liked. At Puebla the French commander underestimated the Mexican will to resist and ordered an attack on the city which was repulsed with heavy casualties. Since people around the world expected the French to have an easy time of it the victory was stunning, and it inspired the Mexican people to fight on. Now the war went on for some time. Eventually the French succeeded in capturing Mexico City on May 17th 1863 and installed Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico arriving in Veracruz on May 21st 1864.
Although they had succeeded the war was not over, President Benito Juarez continued to resist and in 1865, aided by weapons, arms and money from the United States which now that its Civil War was over, was able to supply, issued a series of defeats on French Forces. Emperor Napoleon III of France, who had conjured up this mess now decided that the price of supporting Emperor Maximilian was too high and chose better relations with the United States over the hapless Maximilian and his Mexican forces.
The French withdrew, but Emperor Max chose to fight on and was captured by Republican forces and was tried, and sentenced to death. At his execution he paid the firing squad in gold not to shoot him in the head so his mother could see his face. The remnants of his government surrendered in Mexico City on June 20th 1867, the day after his execution.
Despite Cinco de Mayo not being an official Mexican holiday, we Americans and people in a number of other countries do celebrate it, ostensibly as a day to remember Mexican heritage, but more often as an excuse to party, eat Mexican food, and drink lots of beer, margaritas, and tequila shots.
Since I will be drinking beer and Judy will be drinking margaritas tonight I wish you well. I will be traveling with my latest group of students to Gettysburg tomorrow, so I will be putting up some of my more recent Gettysburg text revisions.
Have a great night.