Wednesday, May 5, 2010

La Historia of May 5th

Traditionally this has always been an interesting day for me. My family has primarily used May 5th as an excuse to go out and enjoy a tasty Mexican meal together. We also liked the day because it doesn’t take lots of preparation or costly debt to enjoy the camaraderie and fun celebration. Basically Cinco de Mayo’s job is to fill the ‘excuse for fun’ void between the end of the school year and Easter with a little Mexican flavor.

The day’s origin in history was anything but fun however. Military units from Spain, Britain and primarily France invaded Mexico in January 1862. Mexico purposefully stopped paying interest payments on their mounting debt so the Europeans came to collect. Soon enough the Spanish and British broke ranks with the French and went home 4 months later. It had become obvious that France had designs on Mexico’s land and natural resources more than its interest in re-payment of debts.

The French had mounted an undefeated army since around 1810. So the 5th of May in 1862 found its way into the annals of history, when the Mexican army took a stand at Puebla, Mexico. The Mexicans soundly repelled the French invasion force of nearly 8000 - double the strength of the defenders. It did not last however as within a year, Mexico City fell and the French occupied their lands. Napoleon III had hoped to establish a Mexican Monarchy patterned after the French model, but beholden to France’s sphere of influence. Continuing guerilla warfare plagued the new government and once America’s Civil War had ended, the now United states turned its collective resources on blockading further French intervention per the long established Monroe Doctrine. Without direct support from France, the failed Monarchists were deposed, and by 1867 Benito Juarez was restored as President of Mexico.

The celebratory nature of the day has always seemed to ring more important with American restaurant owners than with the people of Mexico themselves. Yes, there is no better feeling of pride than being reminded yearly of your ancestors lack of financial responsibility and subsequent impetus for war. Remember to bring your wallet or purse today, if you intend to enjoy the music, good food, and camaraderie of Cinco de Mayo. The costly lessons of history are clear … PAY YOUR DEBTS – because some folks get a little ‘touchy’ when they don’t get paid on time.

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