Tag Archives: Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo

A Mexican mayonnaise festival.

Me and Barbara Ellen skipped the tacos today in favor of Chinese.

Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza

zaragozaThe hero of Cinco de Mayo, i.e. the unlikely defeat of the French at Puebla, a wonderful story (the frogs were taking a coffee break when the Mexicans attacked) never better told than here. The general was born near Goliad, where his statue is today. His father was a soldier at the nearby Precidio La Bahia. Looks like the local doves have been at work on his head, however.

This is not Mexican Independence Day?

Nope. That’s September 16. Cinco de Mayo is both simpler and more complicated, being at root a commemoration of a Mexican peasant army’s 1862 defeat of an invading contingent of the French Foreign Legion. Nowadays, it’s more of a family celebration among Mexican-Americans, with only a look-back at the old country, where it’s hardly observed at all.

One of the best explanations of the history of it that I’ve seen is by Austinite Don Miles. His 296-page non-fiction Indie book, Cinco de Mayo: What Is Everyone Celebrating, is a fascinating adventure story involving a pathetic Austrian royalist and his nervous wife, poorly-armed Mexican revolutionaries, some die-hard Confederates, Unconditional Surrender Grant, and much more. You really should get the book. (A used copy goes for just $2.84 plus S&H) Too bad it’s not an e-book. At least, if it is, I can’t find a copy.

Viva Cinco de Mayo

Any holiday that celebrates a French defeat (for which we must, in part, remember Gen. Ulysses Grant) can’t be bad–even if our alleged intellectual president uses it to demonstrate his abysmal grasp of the Spanish language. If he was W., we’d never hear the end of it, and the Hispanic caucus would be demanding an apology. Not now, of course. That sort of media hurrah is reserved for Republicans.

Grant helped Mexico oust the French

Next Cinco de Mayo, it should be remembered that, without the help of American Civil War Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, it might have taken Mexico years longer to oust the French army and their Austrian puppet-monarch Maximillian I.

Grant considered the 1860s French invasion of Mexico (accompanied, at first, by the Spanish and British) to be a threat to the U.S., even an extension of the Southern rebellion. So at his first opportunity, which didn’t come until immediately after Lee surrendered in 1865, Grant writes in the conclusion of volume two of his "Personal Memoirs," he sent Gen. Phillip Sheridan and an army corps to Texas.

Officially, Grant directed Sheridan to force surrender of the remaining Confederate forces here, but he also told him, unofficially, according to Sheridan’s memoirs, to occupy the northern banks of the Rio Grande. The idea was to make the French think an invasion to overthrow Maximillian was imminent–though the American government actually opposed any such thing.

Somehow all of this has been confused, of late, even by Austin public school academics who should know better, into a claim [subsequently removed from the Web] that the Mexican defeat of the French Foreign Legion at Puebla in 1862 (for which Cinco de Mayo is celebrated) somehow enabled the Union to beat the rebels at Gettysburg a year later. I suppose Puebla may have played some minor role in preventing French supply of arms to the Confederacy. But the claim gets silly when the academics then claim that a grateful President Lincoln promptly sent Sheridan to the Rio Grande. Lincoln was murdered before Sheridan was dispatched by Grant–three whole years after Puebla.

Sheridan got right to work, setting up arms and ammunition dumps on the north bank of the river where Mexican patriots, under Gen. Escobedo, could find them. "During the winter and spring of 1866," Sheridan writes, "[we sent] as many as 30,000 muskets from the Baton Rouge Arsenal alone" to "convenient places on our side of the river." Escobedo’s forces, now sufficiently armed, threw out the French and executed Maximillian. So it wasn’t Lincoln, nor his sucessor, Vice-President Andrew Johnson, but Gen. Grant who should get credit for aiding Mexico, something that ought to be acknowledged on Cinco de Mayo–a holiday celebrated more by Mexican-Americans than by Mexican nationals.

UPDATE:  Texana author Mike Cox has a nice review of this book by radio journalist Donald Miles which addresses this issue. Glad to see someone has done it so well.

Cinco de Rocket

Instead of doing Mexican hat dances in honor of a certain defeat of a French Foreign Legion unit army many years ago by Mexican forces, why not celebrate the Mexican Rocket Helicopter? Thirty-second flights guaranteed. Just watch out for trees. Also a semi-respectable report from National Progressive Radio.