miércoles, 5 de mayo de 2010

Cinco de Mayo


Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Just for the record, if you're reading this in the US, you're probably celebrating today more than anybody here in Mexico is. Why? Cinco de Mayo really isn't a big-deal holiday here. Most Mexicans are more likely to get Mother's Day off of work.

Also, for the record, today is NOT Mexico's independence day. Independence Day is September 16th.

So why do all those gringos in the US celebrate Cinco de Mayo? No idea.

However, I can tell you why most schools and businesses are closed in the state of Puebla (and possibly elsewhere, but they can consider themselves lucky . . . or maybe we're just screwed over, as Freightliner didn't even get off for LABOR DAY. Such a nice place to work). Anyway . . .

Way back in the year 1862, France was busy invading Mexico. Normally, European powers didn't do much invading of any country in the Americas, as the US would have likely sailed over to whoop some Eastern Atlantic ass. However, as the US was temporarily sidetracked with a little diversion called the Civil War, so enforcing the Monroe Doctrine was not top priority. And as Mexico owed France quite a lot of money, France figured that the only way to recoup on their investment was to invade the country. So they did.

France was pretty successful. The French army marched triumphantly through fields, jungles and mountains from the Gulf coast, pushing toward their final destination, Mexico City. Unfortunately for the French, the city of Puebla stood in their way. France put the city under seige and as rations gave way to hunger and desperation, the city was about to surrender.

All seemed lost until General Ignacio Zaragoza rode into town on his white charger, leading his army of 4000 troops. Puebla was saved!

Oh, wait--the French army had 8000 soldiers.

On top of being outnumbered 2:1, the French were also better armed (remember that the Mexican government was being invaded for not paying its debts? Yeah--not good for the Mexican army). Nonetheless, thanks to some daring maneuvering by Zaragoza and his men, the Mexicans won the battle.

Unfortunately, not the war.

Despite eventually succumbing to 5 years of French occupation, the Battle of Puebla (for which Cinco de Mayo is celebrated) is significant because the Mexican army did win the day, despite great odds against them. Furthermore, it was the first defeat that the French army had faced in nearly 50 years.

Where military might is not typically a strong point, we celebrate what we can.

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Side note: Ignacio Zaragoza, the mastermind behind the victory, hailed from Coahuila (where I currently live). At some point, the government of Coahuila officially changed the name of their state to Coahuila de Zaragoza, to show how proud they are of their hometown hero. Zaragoza's face also graces the 500 peso bill.

Now, the name Ignacio is often shortened to Nacho. Nachos, everyone's favorite cheesy, heart atack-on-a-plate, also originate from this great state of Coahuila de Zaragoza. Is this another plot to draw attention to one of the state's favorite figures?

No, just lucky coincidence. For a more complete history of nachos (the snack food), read Linda Ellerbee's Take Big Bites (one of my favorite books).

2 comentarios :

Amanda dijo...

I love when people put history on their sites. My husband isnt good about telling me these things. And your right there is nothing special to do here for Cinco de Mayo but the schools are all out for most of the week.

Leah Flinn dijo...

I forgot it was 5 de Mayo yesterday until a couple friends commented on my fb wall. No one celebrates it here, you are right that more Americans celebrate it than Mexicans.