May 4, 2005

Cinco de Mayo!

What is Cinco de Mayo?

Yes, you in front. It is Mexico Independence Day. Nope, Mexico Independence day is on September 16.

Yes, you in the back drinking the beer. It is a day of fun Mexican fiestas with sombreros, maracas, pinatas, lights as decorations and drinking.
Here's an annual plea for Cinco de Mayo: Save it from going the way of St. Patrick's Day — a commercially driven binge drinking by people claiming to be "Irish for a day."

This time of year calls for bracing against an onslaught of liquor-industry promotions. The ads usually push slamming tequila shots and gulping beer. Cinco (five) beers for cinco ($5) misses the point. High grades of tequila make a fine drink — deserving more respect than normally received in America.

I suspect some of the "Mexican-for-a-day" drinkers envision themselves downing tequila shots, thinking they are being one with their brethren in Mexico.

Sorry, but no.
Ok, we give up. What is Cinco de Mayo?

The History of Cinco de Mayo

The holiday of Cinco De Mayo, The 5th Of May, commemorates the victory of the Mexicans over the French army at The Battle Of Puebla in 1862. It is primarily a regional holiday celebrated in the Mexican state capital city of Puebla and throughout the state of Puebla, with some recognition in other parts of the Mexico, and especially in U.S. cities with a significant Mexican population.

The battle at Puebla in 1862 happened at a violent and chaotic time in Mexico's history. Mexico had finally gained independence from Spain in 1821 after a difficult and bloody struggle, and a number of internal political takeovers and wars, including the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and the Mexican Civil War of 1858, had mostly wiped out the national economy.

During this period of struggle Mexico had accumulated heavy debts to several nations, including Spain, England and France, who were demanding payment. Similar debt to the U.S. was previously settled after the Mexican-American War. France was eager to add to its empire at that time, and used the debt issue to move forward with goals of establishing its own leadership in Mexico. Realizing France's intent of empire expansion, Spain and England withdrew their support. When Mexico finally stopped making any loan payments, France took action on it's own to install Napoleon's relative, Archduke Maximilian of Austria, as ruler of Mexico

France invaded at the gulf coast of Mexico along the state of Veracruz (see map) and began to march toward Mexico City, a distance today of less than 600 miles. Although American President Abraham Lincoln was sympathetic to Mexico's cause, and for which he is honored in Mexico, the U.S. was involved in its own Civil War at the time and was unable to provide any direct assistance.

Marching on toward Mexico City, the French army encountered strong resistance at the Mexican forts of Loreto and Guadalupe. Lead by Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, a small, poorly armed militia estimated at 4,500 men were able to stop and defeat a well outfitted French army of 6,500 soldiers, which stopped the invasion of the country. The victory was a glorious moment for Mexican patriots, which at the time helped to develop a needed sense of national unity, and is the cause for the historical date's celebration.
The underdog Mexicans defeated highly trained French troops. Did the Mexicans defeat of French troops have any consequence in American? Some say, Yes.
When he's asked to retell the Cinco de Mayo story, as he often does for area groups this time of year, Pontiac 50th District Judge Michael Martinez doesn't hesitate. [...]

"The French supported the Confederates in the war between States and gave them money and arms. France's plan was to go to Mexico City and just keep going north, hoping to meet up with the Confederates and join forces."

Martinez praises the French army at the time.

"They were considered the greatest army in the world in early 1860s," he said.

The troops headed toward Mexico City, "but they didn't expect anything to happen. It was like Sherman's march to the sea." [...]

"If the French had not been stopped, they would have marched north and helped the Confederates against the Union. Who knows, if that had happened, we might be speaking French today."
We can debate Mr. Martinez words, but Cinco De Mayo is more than a day to promote drinking. It is a day to celebrate a Mexican military victory over the France, a day to celebrate Mexican heritage.
So, here's to Cinco de Mayo, the memory of a long ago battle won by a ragtag army. Sip a glass of tequila or two and discover its true qualities in their honor.
Here, Here!

If you are going to celebrate with Tequila and other drinks on Cinco De Mayo be safe and have designated drivers.


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