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Sunday, May 5, 2013

"Cinco De Mayo"

The 5th of May is the translation for the Spanish term "Cinco De Mayo" celebrated with a flare of Mexican foods, drinking beer and declaring victory throughout the United States and Mexico.  Perhaps celebrated by as many Gringo's as those of Hispanic origin.  Although, ask just about anyone what the celebration is all about and likely you'll receive an answer with a misconception.  Perhaps like Saint Patrick's Day, many seek the excuse to celebrate with a few beers, though there is much to be proud about the date of May 5th, 1862. 

The most incorrect reply I normally hear is Mexico's Independence Day which is on the 16th of September when on that day in 1810, father Hidalgo, accompanied by several conspirators rang the church bell of his little mission calling for everyone to fight for liberty. This was the beginning of the Independence War, which lasted 10 years before defeating the Spanish rule for over 300 years.

The next misconception is "Viva la Revolution" and roots tying to José Doroteo Arango Arámbula, better known as Pancho Villa who was born on the 5th of  June 1878 and lead an unsuccessful rebellion against the Mexican government as one of the most prominent Mexican Revolutionary generals from 1910 to 1920.  Villa acted as the commander of the División del Norte (Division of the North) along Texas and New Mexico borders where Villa and his supporters seized hacienda land for distribution to peasants and soldiers. He robbed and commandeered trains.  Villa's men and supporters became known as Villistas during the revolution from 1910 to roughly 1920 though his dominance in northern Mexico was broken in 1915 through a series of defeats.  After Villa's famous raid on Columbus, New Mexico in 1916, U.S. Army General John J. Pershing tried unsuccessfully to capture Villa in a nine-month pursuit that ended when the United States entered into World War I and Pershing was assigned to lead the American Forces in Europe.  Villa retired in 1920 and was given a large estate which he turned into a "military colony" for his former soldiers. In 1923, he decided to re-involve himself in Mexican politics and as a result was assassinated – 20 July 1923.

Cinco De Mayo actually is to celebrate "The Battle De la Puebla" where Mexico resisted invasion by France in 1862. Nevertheless, to understand the whole picture, one needs to be informed to events which lead up to the battle and an inept knowledge of how it became so celebrated in the United States. The time line follows after Texas declared Independence from Mexico in 1836 and after the early dealing with the United States as Texas received statehood in 1845.

Mexico was under a new Government.  Benito Juarez, had been living in New Orleans, Louisiana  exiled because of his objections to the corrupt military dictatorship of Antonio López de Santa Anna. Faced
Benito Juarez
with growing discontent, Santa Anna resigned in 1855 and Juárez returned to Mexico. In 1855, he became the Minister of Justice. Juarez then issued a series of reforms (called Ley Juarez):
* Abolished fueros and the use of special military and ecclesiastical courts in civil cases.
* All church property except buildings used for worship was confiscated without any compensation. Money from sale of these properties were confiscated.
* Non-civil marriages were declared annulled.
* Separation of church and state was proclaimed.
* Cemeteries were now public property and burial fees abolished.

In 1861 he took control of the Capitol placing these rules into effect. The new rules caused a civil war placing great debt upon Mexico. On July 17, 1861, he issued a statement that all foreign debts payment would temporary be stopped for two years. After two years, payments would resume. England and Spain unhappy about this negotiated and come to agreements. However, France under the rule of Napoleon III refused to reach agreements and desired to place their own Emperor Rule in Mexico.

French troops already occupying the port city of Veracruz since December 8, 1861 with forces of approximately 8,000  on the Mexican southeastern coast along the Gulf of Mexico moved inland towards the city Puebla meeting an ill-equipped group on Zapata Indians and Mexico Mestizo group of 4,500 commanded by Texas - born General Ignacio Zaragosa. The French lost and retreated. This is "Cinco De Mayo." The Battle of Puebla was an inspirational event for wartime Mexico, and it provided a stunning revelation to the rest of the world which had largely expected a rapid victory for French arms.  The following year, President Juárez declared that the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla would be a national holiday, regarded as "Battle of Puebla Day" or "Battle of Cinco de Mayo". Although today it is recognized in some countries as a day of Mexican heritage celebration, it is not a federal holiday in Mexico. 

While the Mexican victory was short lived, France eventually took control of Mexico proclaiming Ferdinand Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico.  Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph, after a distinguished career in the Austrian Navy was proclaimed Emperor of Mexico on 10 April 1864, with the backing of Napoleon III of France and a group of Mexican aristocrats who sought to revive the Mexican monarchy.  It is also believed that Napoleon desired to not only acquire additional land claiming Mexico for France, but to test the United States.

The Unites States did not recognize the new Government of Mexico. However, due to the civil war between Union and Confederate States, the United States could not get involved. Additionally, when the civil war broke out, England and France both sympathized with the south. The war began as a refusal to allow the south to separate. This would change during Lincolns September 22, 1862 issued of the famous proclamation, the gist of which was that on January 1, 1863, all slaves held in a state or a part of a state which was in rebellion should be "then, thence-forward and forever free. Neither European Government would support the south on Slavery.  Once the civil war ended, the United States did intervene assisting Benito Juarez regain power and Maximilian was executed, after his capture by the Mexican Liberal forces in 1867.

The celebration today continues much in the southern part of Mexico although it is not a national holiday of Mexico. It is however, celebrated greater in the United States than in Mexico due to a group of college students who attended the California State University in 1967.   They felt there was no Chicano holiday nor anything which recognized Mexican American heritage and therefore thought of starting this tradition. They wanted something to recapture their history and decided that the "Battle of Puebla" was symbolic to Mexico as that to Texans as perhaps "The Battle of the Alamo." This helped them to connect it to their struggle for the formation of a Chicano Studies program at the university and recognition as Hispanic people in the United States.  The Cinco De Mayo celebration is held in nearly every state of the USA.  The largest held in Los Angeles, California, with crowds nearing 600,000 people attending celebrates today marks a proud cultural heritage of Mexico with Mexican cuisines and festivals of Hispanic origins and their influences and contributions in the United States.

Recipes of Mexican Cuisines:


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