History : May-Jun 2018
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 73 grenades. Their columns attacking the Loreto and Guadalupe hills have been repelled and we were probably attacked by four thousand men. All their push was towards the hill. Then their columns retreated and our forces advanced to- wards them. A heavy storm then started.” He said nothing , however, of the final re- sult. Zaragoza’s next telegram, arriving just be- fore 6 p.m., clarified the outcome. Just before 8 p.m. Juárez received the best possible news: “Mr. President. I am very happy with the be- havior of my generals and soldiers. They have all performed well . . . Let this be for good, Mr. President. I wish that our dear homeland, now so despondent, is one day happy and respected by all Nations.” The joy was, however, short-lived, and only delayed the inevitable. The Mexicans had tasted victory in this battle, but the French took Puebla two years later, and Juárez’s government was defeated. With the support of Mexico’s con- servatives, Napoleon III imposed the Austrian- Habsburg Maximilian as Mexico’s puppet king. Only in 1867, after the United States funded the anti-Maximilian resistance, was Juárez restored as president, and Maximilian executed. Ignacio Zaragoza would never live to see the French expelled from Mexico. At only age 33, he died of typhus four months after the famous victory. To honor his memory, Juárez decided to join his name to the city that had brought him fame, renaming it Puebla de Zaragoza. In June 1867, after returning to power, Juárez also com- memorated the battle itself by declaring May 5 a national holiday. Since then, Mexican celebrations of Cinco de Mayo have traditionally been held in Puebla. Visitors flock to the city in May for parades and a reenactment of the famous battle. In the United States holiday observances have grown larger and more widespread. From Los Angeles to New York City, Mexican-American communities cel- ebrate not only a military victory but also a proud Mexican heritage with parades, colorful dancers, traditional music, and delicious food. ERICHLESSING/ALBUM ÉDOUARD MANET’S “Execution of Emperor Maximilian” (Kunsthalle Mannheim, Germany) is an unsettling, ambiguous depiction of the violent conclusion of French interference in Mexico in 1867. There is pity for the condemned man, and perhaps criticism for the manner in which Napoleon III had sacrificed this puppet king to his igno- minious death. In any case, with this execution, European colonial activity in Mexico—which had begun in 1519—was now at an end. COUP DE GRACE ISABEL BUENO IS AN HONORARY MEMBER OF THE VICENTE LOMBARDO TOLEDANO CENTER IN MEXICO, ON WHOSE CULTURE AND HISTORY SHE HAS WRITTEN EXTENSIVELY.