Saturday, May 5

Say 'Si' to Cinco de Mayo

Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for "fifth of May") is not Mexico's Independence Day which is celebrated on Sept. 16.

Cinco de Mayo has its roots in the French occupation of Mexico, which took place in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, the Mexican Civil War of 1858, and the 1860 Reform Wars.

These wars left the Mexican Treasury in ruins and nearly bankrupt. On July 17, 1861, Mexican President Benito Juárez issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for two years.

In response, France, Britain, and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew, but France decided to use the opportunity to establish a Latin empire in Mexico that would favor French interests.

The 8,000-strong French army attacked the poorly equipped Mexican army of 4,000, but on May 5, 1862 the Mexicans crushed the French army.

What I did not know is that some historians have argued that France's real goal was to help break up the American Union, at the time in the midst of the Civil War, by helping the southern Confederacy.

Had Mexico not defeated the French in Puebla on May 5, 1862, France would have gone to the aid of the South in the U.S. Civil War and the United States' destiny could have been very different.

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