Cinco de Mayo and the Battle of Puebla
Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo is celebrated on May 5 along the Mexican-American border and in many regions of the United States where there is a significant Mexican population. Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. Mexican Independence Day is September 16.
I am embarrassed to admit that I did not know this because my husband of several decades is of Mexican descent born here in Texas. He is a third generation Texan. Both my husband’s parents and one of his grandmother’s were born in Texas, but that is no excuse for not knowing about the history of Cinco de Mayo.
Cinco de Mayo is the commemoration of the Battle of Puebla that took place at a small village in Mexico in 1862. The French invaded Mexico with a well armed and well trained group of soldiers that numbered 6,500. The Mexican defenders of the country were a poorly trained group that numbered 4,500 and were led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin. Although this was a little known battle, it was important for the morale of the people who were badly in need of unity during this period of invasion and chaotic unrest.
Battle of Puebla
The economy of Mexico had been damaged after the Mexican-American war that took place between 1846 and 1848, as well as the Mexican Civil War that took place in 1858. The victory at the Battle of Puebla gave the Mexican people the courage to continue their fight. Although they eventually lost the war to the Archduke Maximilian of Austria, who was a cousin of Napoleon III of France. Maximilian managed to rule for three years before being overthrown when the American government offered assistance to the Mexican rebellion. He was executed at the end of the war. His shirt with the bullet holes is kept on display at a museum at Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City.
Today the Mexican Cinco de Mayo celebration takes place in the State of Puebla where it is a large festival. In the regional areas of the United States it has become a cultural celebration of Mexican food, dance, and music. It is common to see cars flying the Mexican flag during the week before and after Cinco de Mayo.
Peñón de los Baños is a rocky outcrop that was in the past an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco located close to Mexico City’s international airport. A reenactment of the Battle of Puebla has taken place here since the 1930s. The battle actually took place at Puebla which is about 100 km east of Mexico City.
People have celebrated the victory since a few years after the Battle of Puebla took place in 1862. Generally, the celebrations have been local in Mexico and not nearly as large as those that gained popularity in the United States. Mexican celebrations are more authentic than those widely observed in the US.
Mexican American Influence
Mexican immigrants to the United States are a part of the earliest history of America and continue to be part of the most recent history. Descendants of these early immigrants make up a significant portion of the American population and will continue to be a part of the social and cultural make up of the states.
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo 1848
The war between the United States and Mexico ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which was signed on February 2, 1848. Nicholas P. Trist negotiated for the United States. This treaty confirmedU.S. claims to Texas and set its boundary at the Rio Grande. Mexico also agreed to cede to the United States California and New Mexico (which at the time included California, Nevada, Utah, parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming) in exchange for $15 million and assumption by the United States of claims against Mexico by U.S. citizens up to $3.25 million.
My husband and children are of Mexican American heritage. My husband's grandfather legally entered the United States at Laredo, Texas in 1911. He has many descendants. As a student of genealogy it was interesting to learn that the brother of my own great-great grandfather whose name was Mackie Rone fought and was wounded at the Battle of Mexico City during the war with Mexico in 1847. He lived to be taken back to Tennessee where he applied to the government for a pension due to his war injury.
Cinco de Mayo
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