Things That Matter

If You Don’t Know The History Of Cinco De Mayo, Here’s A Brief History Lesson Before You Celebrate The Holiday

Cinco de Mayo is upon us and while there is nothing wrong with going out and having a few margaritas with friends, it is important to know why Cinco de Mayo is even a thing. No. It isn’t Mexico’s Independence Day and for the most part, Mexicans aren’t partying it up all night like most of us do here. There are celebrations but they focus more on the history and significance of the day rather than 2 for 1 margaritas specials and bottomless chips and salsa. Let’s go ahead and break down Cinco de Mayo in a *brief* history lesson.

First, let’s just get this out of the way: Cinco de Mayo ≠ Mexican Independence Day.


If you think Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day, your history is more than half a century off. Cinco de Mayo is a day to remember and celebrate the Battle of Puebla when Mexican forces unexpectedly defeated French forces in 1862 from an attempted invasion. Mexico got their independence from Spain on Sept. 16, 1810, a full 52 years before the Battle of Puebla.

It all started in 1861 when Benito Juárez, an indigenous Zapeteco, was elected president of Mexico. However, the Mexican government was low on money and they defaulted on their debts to some European countries.


According to History, years of internal turmoil leading up to Juárez’s election left Mexico in financial ruin. He had no other option than to default on debts owed to some European powers because they just didn’t have the cash. In response, three European countries, Spain, Britain, and France, sent forces to Mexico to demand repayment on the money they had borrowed. Luckily, Juárez was able to negotiate with Spain and Britain and they abandoned their crusade and returned home. However, Napoleon III, the ruler of France at the time, saw this as an opportunity to take some land and set up shop in Mexico.

Spain, Britain, and France all deployed forces to Mexico for repayment on defaulted debt but Napoleon III of France was the only person who wasn’t willing to negotiate. Instead, he sent his forces to Mexico determined to take some land and create an empire.


The first thing France did was drive Juárez, his government, and his forces out of Veracruz by force.


According to History, with the government and military forces in retreat and expecting an instant victory, 6,000 French troops under the direction of General Charles Latrille de Lorencez began their march to Puebla de Los Ángeles.

French forces quickly began advancing onto Puebla de Los Ángeles on their way to Mexico City to continue their invasion.


Puebla, as it is known today, is located between Veracruz and Mexico City. According to The Guardian, Puebla was founded more than 500 years ago by Spaniards as a travel town since it was located between the two major cities. So, obviously, in order for the French to make it to Mexico City, they would have followed the most traveled path between the two landing them right into Puebla.

But, what the French didn’t know was that Juárez had assembled a group of 2,000 men who, led by Texas-born Ignacio Zaragoza, were ready to fight for Mexico.


The French really had no idea what was waiting for them. But, let’s not forget that the French had 6,000 troops while Mexico had only 2,000. Just by the numbers, it seemed like France was going to steamroll right through Puebla on their way to Mexico City.

When the French made it to Puebla, it was May 5, 1862 and the battle began to rage. According to History, the battle went on for less than a day before the French admitted defeat in the battle and retreated.


The Mexican troops who were both smaller in number and significantly under armed, prevailed. The French lost 500 men in the Battle of Puebla while the Mexico lost just under 100 men. The French did retreat from Puebla defeated, but it wasn’t the last time the French would take aim at this town. Between March and May of 1863, the French returned and conquered Puebla, according to Napoleon.Org. By July of 1863, French forces had taken control of Mexico City and Juárez was with his troops in San Luis Potosí and established their French empire in Mexico. It wasn’t until 1867, when Napoleon III became disillusioned with ruling Mexico, that French forces began leaving Mexico.

To this day, Mexicans remember the day of their unexpected victory with reenactments and parades.


Sure. Some people party but the point of Cinco de Mayo isn’t about drinking and partying, but remembering a time when only 2,000 Mexican forces were able to stop the conquering of Mexico by French forces.

You can watch an ABC news story about Cinco de Mayo below:


READ: White House Decides To Celebrate Cinco De Mayo A Day Early And Social Media Isn’t Having It

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The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

Culture

The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

Tyrone Turner / Getty Images

Latinos make up the largest minority group in the country, yet our history is so frequently left out of classrooms. From Chicano communities in Texas and California to Latinos in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the Underground Railroad – which also had a route into Mexico – Latinos have helped shape and advance this country.

And as the U.S. is undergoing a racial reckoning around policing and systemic racism, Mexico’s route of the Underground Railroad is getting renewed attention – particularly because Mexico (for the very first time in history) has counted its Afro-Mexican population as its own category in this year’s census.

The Underground Railroad also ran south into Mexico and it’s getting renewed attention.

Most of us are familiar with stories of the Underground Railroad. It was a network of clandestine routes and safe houses established in the U.S. during the early to mid-19th century. It was used by enslaved African Americans to escape into free states and Canada. It grew steadily until the Civil War began, and by one estimate it was used by more than 100,000 enslaved people to escape bondage.

In a story reported on by the Associated Press, there is renewed interest in another route on the Underground Railroad, one that went south into Mexico. Bacha-Garza, a historian, dug into oral family histories and heard an unexpected story: ranches served as a stop on the Underground Railroad to Mexico. Across Texas and parts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas, scholars and preservation advocates are working to piece together the story of a largely forgotten part of American history: a network that helped thousands of Black slaves escape to Mexico.

According to Maria Hammack, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin studying the passage of escapees who crossed the borderlands for sanctuary in Mexico, about 5,000 to 10,000 people broke free from bondage into the southern country. Currently, no reliable figures currently exist detailing how many left to Mexico, unlike the more prominent transit into Canada’s safe haven.

Mexico abolished slavery a generation before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Thirty-four years before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, in 1829, Mexican President Vicente Guerrero, who was of mixed background, including African heritage, abolished slavery in the country. The measure freed an estimated 200,000 enslaved Africans Spain forcefully brought over into what was then called New Spain and would later open a pathway for Blacks seeking freedom in the Southern U.S.

And he did so while Texas was still part of the country, in part prompting white, slave-holding immigrants to fight for independence in the Texas Revolution. Once they formed the Republic of Texas in 1836, they made slavery legal again, and it continued to be legal when Texas joined the U.S. as a state in 1845.

With the north’s popular underground railroad out of reach for many on the southern margins, Mexico was a more plausible route to freedom for these men and women.

Just like with the northern route, helping people along the route was dangerous and could land you in serious trouble.

Credit: Library of Congress / Public Domain

Much like on the railway’s northern route into Canada, anyone caught helping African-Americans fleeing slavery faced serious and severe consequences.

Slaveholders were aware that people were escaping south, and attempted to get Mexico to sign a fugitive slave treaty that would, like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that demanded free states to return escapees, require Mexico to deliver those who had left. Mexico, however, refused to sign, contending that all enslaved people were free once they reached Mexican soil. Despite this, Hammock said that some Texans hired what was called “slave catchers” or “slave hunters” to illegally cross into the country, where they had no jurisdiction, to kidnap escapees.

“The organization that we know today as the Texas Rangers was born out of an organization of men that were slave hunters,” Hammack, who is currently researching how often these actions took place, told the AP. “They were bounty hunters trying to retrieve enslaved property that crossed the Rio Grande for slave owners and would get paid according to how far into Mexico the slaves were found.”

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Viva Mexico Is Trending On Twitter Proving That Mexico Is More Than Just A Country

Culture

Viva Mexico Is Trending On Twitter Proving That Mexico Is More Than Just A Country

Carlos Vivas / Getty Images

It is Mexico’s Independence Day and that means that Mexicans around the world are honoring their roots. Twitter is buzzing with people who might not be in Mexico but they will forever have Mexico in their hearts. Here are just a few of the loving messages from people who are Mexican through and through.

Viva Mexico is trending on social media and the tweets are filled with love and passion for the country.

Mexico received its independence from Spain on September 16, 1810 and since then the day has been marked with celebration. The day is marked with parties of pride and culture no matter where you are in the world.

Mexicans everywhere are letting their Mexican flag fly.

Tbh, who doesn’t want to be Mexican to enjoy the day of puro pinche pride? The celebration for Mexican Independence Day starts on Sept. 15 with El Grito. The tradition is that the president of Mexico stands on the balcony on Sept. 15 at 11 p.m. and rings the same church bell that Roman Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang in 1810 to trigger the Mexican Revolution.

People are loving all of the celebrations for their homeland.

The original El Grito took place in Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato in 1810. While most El Grito celebrations take place at the National Palace, some presidents, especially on their last year, celebrate El Grito in the town where it originated.

Honestly, no one celebrates their independence day like Mexico and we love them for it.

¡Viva Mexico! Mexico lindo y querido. How are you celebrating the Mexican Independence Day this year? Show us what you have planned.

READ: Many Mexicans Are Calling Out Fragile Masculinity As Some Continue To Protest A Controversial Zapata Painting

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