History : May-Jun 2018
64 MAY/JUNE 2018 From the Jaws of Defeat October 1861 France, Britain, and Spain sign the London Convention, agreeing to send military forces to Mexico. Their troops will begin landing at Veracruz in January 1862. July 1861 Mexico is reeling from civil war. President Benito Juárez freezes repayment of Mexico’s debt with France, Britain, and former colonial ruler, Spain. February 1862 Mexico’s foreign minister, Manuel Doblado, secures agreement from the Europeans not to advance while the debt is being negotiated. March 1862 The French renege on the deal and show signs of moving west. The San Andrés Chalchicomula munitions explosion kills many Mexican soldiers. April 1862 Spain and Britain break with France and withdraw. Advancing French troops overcome Mexican troops at the Cumbres de Acultzingo. May 5, 1862 Although Zaragoza’s forces are outnumbered and out-armed, the French are repulsed at Puebla, a stunning Mexican victory celebrated to this day. May 2, 1862 French troops march on Puebla. General Zaragoza distributes his ill-equipped forces throughout the city to prepare its defense. FROM START TO FINISH Diego Rivera’s 1951 mural at the National Palace, Mexico City (above), depicts the Spanish conquest in 1519. Mexico finally shut the door on European colonialism with the expulsion of the French in 1867. CINCO DE MAYO POSTER IN ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA STEVE SKJOLD/ALAMY/ACI P arades, brightly colored dresses, siz- zling street food, festive music, and laughter fills the streets every May 5, a date circled in revolutionary red on any Mexican calendar. On May 5, 1862, a ragtag Mexican army defeated the better- equipped hosts of the Second French Empire at the Battle of Puebla. The battle itself did not decide the war—the French returned to capture Puebla and Mexico City in 1863. France con- trolled Mexico until 1867, when Mexican troops overthrew their government and returned to being an independent republic. Over time, the Battle of Puebla grew in na- tional significance. The victory strengthened the morale of a very young Mexico and became the rallying cry of resistance to foreign domi- nation. In commemoration of this day, Cinco de Mayo began as a celebration of the French defeat, but the holiday has grown and changed with time. For Mexicans in Puebla, as well as Mexican-Americans in the United States, it has become a complex symbol of Mexican culture, resilience, and character.