- Cinco de Mayo: The Battle of Pueblo...
Happy Cinco de Mayo to you! If you celebrate this Mexican holiday, I hope you have time to enjoy a margarita or two.
Cinco de Mayo remembers the Mexican victory over France on May 5th, 1862 at the Battle of Pueblo. Napoleon III of France landed French forces on Mexican soil late in 1861 on the pretext of debt collection. In reality, he intended to conquer Mexico. In the spring of 1862, the French army moved on Mexico City.
President Juárez of Mexico ordered that the French be intercepted at Pueblo. Wikipedia notes what happened next, "The weather favored the Mexicans. Rainy season downpours had turned the ground to mud, slowing the movement of the French artillery. Contemptuous of the Mexican troops, General Lorencez assumed they would flee from heavy fighting. At noon, he directed his first charge at the Mexican center. The Mexicans held their ground and drove the French back. The French regrouped and launched two more charges, both defeated. The Mexicans counter-attacked. A force of Zacapoaxtla and Xochiapulco Indians, many armed only with machetes, overran part of the French lines. Porfirio Díaz (a future President of Mexico) led a well disciplined company of Mexican cavalry that flanked the French. The battle was over by 4:30 p.m."
The victory was astonishing. The French army was modern and well trained. In contrast, the Mexican forces consisted largely of untrained farmers with primitive weapons. Everyone, including the Mexicans, had trouble believing the result!
The French would regroup and eventually take Mexico City. The Emperor Maximilian ruled portions of Mexico on behalf of France until he was executed in 1867. However, the heroism of the Mexicans at Pueblo showed the French and the world that they were willing to defend their country. The Mexicans had no intention of losing badly as they had in the Mexican-American War a mere 15 years earlier.
Looking back from the early 21st century, it is easy to see why Cinco de Mayo has been remembered by Mexicans for generations.