Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Written By Dr. Tony Cantu, Ph.D.
Cinco de Mayo is a day of celebration, not only for the Mexican people, but for all who love freedom.
Mexico won its independence from Spain in the 16th day of September, 1810. A true democratic promoter of Mexican Indian decent took over as Mexican President, Don Benito Juarez, known for his statement “the respect for others rights’, is peace.”
In 1861, the French had landed in the coast of Vera Cruz together with Spanish and English troops to collect on Mexican debt. Mexican President Juarez made an agreement with the Spanish and the English, whom left quickly, but the French stayed under the command of Emperor Napoleon III. The French had intentions of conquering Mexico, which at the time, also encompassed Tejas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Napoleon III army was formidable, had not been defeated in over 50 years and was considered one of the greatest military forces in the world.
Napoleon III brought prince Maximiliano and his wife Carlota to rule over Mexico as Emperors, but their delusions of conquest did not take long.
The French did not like the forming Union, and was supplying arms and munitions to the Confederate army. Union General Phil Sheridan rushed to supply the Mexican army, and many American soldiers actually joined the Mexican army to help defeat the French.
The French thought the Mexicans would surrender if their capital, Mexico City, would fall, but they were wrong. As the French approached Mexico City, the Mexican government and army retreated to the city of Puebla located about 100 miles south east Mexico City. Six Mexican army cadets, Juan de la Barrera, Juan Escutia, Francisco Marquez, Agustin Melgar, Fernando Montes de Oca and Vicente Suarez, came back from an excursion and entrenched themselves in the Palace of Chapultepec. Mexican General Nicolas Bravo and Jose Mariano Monterde asked the cadets to retreat, but they refused shooting cannons at the approaching French from the palace’s towers. After the French killed five cadets, Juan Escutia wrapped himself in the Mexican Flag and jumped from one of the towers to his death before the French could desecrate the Mexican flag.
The French, led by General Charles de Lorencez, marched passed Mexico City as the Mexican army attacked the French by ambush all the way to the city of Puebla. Only four thousands Mexican soldiers remained against about six thousand French. General Lorencez was lead to believe that in Puebla he was going to find many supporting Mexicans, when in fact Puebla was held by the Mexican Government since 1860 as a heavily fortified city.
In the glorious fifth day of May, 1862, under the command of Mexican Texan-Born General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, not so much a military tactician, but a well known guerilla fighter, the Mexican cavalry and the Mexican army entrenched themselves outside of the City of Puebla between the Mexican forts on top of the hills of Loreto and Guadalupe.
In one of the brightest military maneuvers, General Zaragoza ordered the Mexican cavalry under Mexican Colonel Diaz, to attack the French cavalry and make them follow them to Guadalupe hill, away from the French infantry and brake the French flanks.
In yet another, and one of the worse military decisions, General Lorencez, attacked too late in the day, and with contempt for the Mexicans ordered the French infantry to start assaults against the Mexican army directly and through a muddy field after a mid afternoon thunderstorm. The French artillery ran out of ammunition and the third French infantry assault went totally unsupported. Mexican Indians, armed only with machetes, let thousands of heads of cattle stampede against the assaulting French infantry, while Mexican army soldiers decimated the exhausted, unsupported and disoriented French infantry.
After the final French assault, General Zaragoza ordered Colonel Diaz to turn his cavalry around and ambush the French cavalry who were exhausted after going through ditches and up Guadalupe hill. Colonel Diaz pursued what remained of the French cavalry all the way to the City of Orizaba, finally forcing the retreating French to flee to the coast and off Mexican land.
In Puebla, French soldiers laid dead in their bright red dragon uniforms everywhere by the thousands, while the Mexican army soldiers, not so well dressed, stood victorious against the defeated French. The Mexican people were finally free from the invaders.
After the Cinco de Mayo victory, the American Legion of Honor marched in the victory parade in Mexico City among the Mexican soldiers.
As Napoleon III had been defeated, the French halted the supplies to the Confederate army, which was ultimately defeated by Union forces led by President Abraham Lincoln.
On September 16, 1862, President Juarez declared Cinco de Mayo as a national holiday. On May 11, 1867 Maximiliano tried to escape Mexico, but was captured and sentenced to death by firing squad after court-martial on May 15, 1867, and was executed on June 19, 1867 together with his Generals Miguel Miramon and Tomas Mejia. Many European figures begged President Juarez to spare Maximilano, but Juarez refused stating Mexicans would never tolerate any government imposed by foreign powers, and carried the execution in the Campana hills in the outskirts of the City of Queretaro, north of Mexico City.
“Los Estados Unidos de la Republica Mexicana” (the United States of the Mexican Republic) was restored, with President Don Benito Juarez returning to power and reestablishing the Mexican Constitution of 1857 to rule the land, among other things, establishing civil marriages and separating Church and state.
In gratitude for the help from the Union to the Mexican Forces, thousands of Mexicans crossed the border and joined the American Armed Forces after Pearl Harbor.
Sadly, Cinco de Mayo has become commercialized and is loosing its true meaning as people are forgetting the actual events and motives of the battle of Cinco de Mayo.
Cinco the Mayo is a celebration of liberty, in remembrance, respect and admiration of those who have given us Freedom, which Mexicans and Americans and all who value freedom, should continue to defend, if necessary, with our very own lives.
Dr. Tony Cantu has been an activist for the democratic movement and human rights since his early age of fifteen.
Dr. Tony Cantu, Ph.D.