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Quote of the Day: The Real Cinco de Mayo
“Today, you are going to fight for a sacred objective; you are going to fight for the fatherland, and I promise that this day we shall triumph in a day of eternal renown. I see victory in your faces.” — Mexican Brigadier General Ignacio Zaragoza, May 5, 1862
Ever wonder why Latin America is called Latin America? Blame the French.
After years of revolutions, counter-revolutions, and counter-counter-revolutions, Napoleon III seized power. He was the nephew of his great namesake, but not nearly as clever. Three years after being elected France’s leader, he declared himself Emperor.
Napoleon III immediately launched his “Grand Design,” in which France would be the overseer of a cultural, commercial, and political empire uniting all Catholic nations. Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and French societies shared Latin roots, as did the territories they once controlled in the Western Hemisphere. He wanted them back.
Mexico would be the first step, for which he chose Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Habsburg, the foppish, dimwitted little brother of Austria’s emperor. French forces sailed west and expected to make quick work of it.
As French commander Comte de Lorencez wrote to his superior, “We have over the Mexicans such a superiority of race, organization, discipline, morality, and elevated spirits that I beg you to inform the emperor that, from this moment on and at the head of six thousand soldiers, I am the master of Mexico.”
The pretext for war was Mexico’s unmanageable debt to greedy French, British, and Spanish bankers. President Benito Juárez had signed a two-year moratorium of interest payments and the Euros wanted their pesos.
In December 1861, the Spanish fleet seized the Atlantic port of Veracruz, and British and French forces joined them a few weeks later. The well-armed bill collectors marched inland about 80 miles to Orizaba and negotiated for payment. When it became clear Mexico was bankrupt and France was set on throwing hands, the Brits and Spaniards noped out of there.
Mexican forces fell back further inland to Puebla, determined to make a stand with their ragtag military led by Generals Porfirio Diaz and Ignacio Zaragoza. On May 5, the French attacked.
The French were better equipped, better trained, and outnumbered the Mexicans by about 6,000 to 4,000. They were considered the finest army on Earth. But in assault after assault on that bloody, muddy day, the invaders were repulsed by the plucky locals. By the end, France lost about 700 men to Mexico’s 200, and the frogs hopped back to Orizaba.
A year later, France finally conquered Mexico, at least for a while. Maximilian arrived as Emperor in 1864, but the Mexicans executed him in 1867, ending Napoleon III’s dream of a Paris-controlled Latin America.
So tonight, as you sit down to a hot plate of enchiladas and a cold bottle or three of Negra Modelo, offer a toast to Gen. Zaragoza and his feisty 4,000. ¡Salud!Published in History
Also, Negra Modelo is a key competitor to the Beer of Queens, so there’s that.
Personally, I’m in for Dos Equis Amber when ridding the world of Mexican food, one plate at a time:
Because they speak Latin!
This is a slur. We all know the French are actually “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” . . .
Negra Modelo has been my favorite beer for decades, except every idiot bar tender in the country insists on putting a lime in it, as though it were a corona needing to mask its flavor.
What on earth does “throwing hands” mean? I’ve never seen that idiom before. Do you mean they wanted to fight?
A war between Mexico and France to me is much like a war between Nazis and Soviets. I want both sides to lose.
There were 129 cases of Hellmann’s on their way from London to Mexico City on the Titanic. Of course, we all know what happened next: “Sinko de Mayo.”
Mexico only maintained its independence b/c the USA began to back the anti-imperialist forces after the conclusion of the U.S. Civil War-thereby dooming the French ambitions. The US not only began to pressure the French diplomatically, but also armed the Mexicans- kind of like we are doing now in Ukraine-helping a sovereign people fight of an imperial adventure.
In hockey, you have to throw gloves before you throw hands.
It’s interesting how much exploitation has taken place by the Europeans when you learn the actual history.
I wonder what his superior thought when he read that over-confident communication. And what was said to and about Comte de Lorencez after the debacle.
This post is part of the Quote of the Day group writing project at Ricochet. Please join us and signup here for May!
US intervention was also imperialist, in our way, under the Monroe Doctrine. We’ve been intervening in Central and South American affairs for almost 200 years now. We still do. Ask the Cubans and Venezuelans. Look into how Panama ceased to be a part of Colombia.
For that matter, about 20 years before the French conquest, we picked a fight with Mexico, occupied Mexico City, and took away about half of their country.
Even more interesting to learn even more and consider that moment in time in the context of the human history of struggle and depredation, and be thankful that we were the ones who made the most recent, most meaningful advance in the condition of the species.
Each European nation (any way you slice it) also was engaged in exploiting each other. Just the exact same as every other nation on Earth.
“Our” exploitation of the natives encountered in Mexico interrupted their campaigns of enslaving their neighbors and pulling the beating hearts out of their chests.
I apologize for nothing. I will accept gratitude from the rest of the world.
A good default position.
I’m not sure we can call it exploitation as we understand the word now. Until very recently, maybe 125 years +/-, an army or navy was the primary means by which you collected debts from those not under your direct control. And even for those force was often needed. The list of sovereigns, dynasts, and states (not in the US sense) who reneged on their debts is very long. So why did lenders keep lending? Because they banked on their sovereign being willing to use force to collect if the debt became big enough, because he wanted his vig.
It saves time.
Libré Mexico! Salud!
(and get a handle on the cartels before they own every city, town, village and pueblo.)
Alright, who did this?
The Republic of Texas would great dispute your take- much of the territory you claim we took wasn’t part of Mexico at the time-or was disputed between Mexico & the Republic of Texas. Furthermore, it was the Mexicans who foolishly started the war by attacking US troops.
I’m glad you jumped in to say that. I wanted to but was pressed for time when I read it.
Until the gringos started celebrating cinco de mayo it wasn’t much of a deal in Mexico. Mexico’s independence day is Sept 16th.
Whenever I order a Mexican beer, I say, “No lime, please.” Sometimes they remember . . .
Perhaps they should reach out to the LGBT community and have a pillow fight . . .
Yeah, I have to say that every time, and about 70% of the time they do it anyway.
I find they remember better if you take the lime out, hand it to the bartender, and ask, “Do you have a trash can?”
I make them take it back for a new one, and about half the time they walk out of view, remove the offensive fruit and put the same citrus befouled bottle right back in front of me. I know because I can still smell lime. Then I make a decision on whether I want to fight with the waiter over it.
So you’re saying you don’t want lime in your beer.