Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Origins of Cinco de Mayo

The Origins of Cinco de Mayo

Contrary to popular opinion “Cinco de Mayo” isn’t Spanish for “ 5 ounces of Mayonnaise.”

The fifth of May was a glorious day in the military annals of Mexico.

Poor Mexico, it had only gained independence from Spain in 1810. On its 36th birthday it was invaded by the US (Which is how we got California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.)  After a Civil War in 1858 Mexico was flat broke.

So in 1862 those pesky French took advantage of the fact that we Americans we’re preoccupied with our Civil War. Using the excuse of some unpaid debts, the French invaded Mexico’s Gulf Coast and began a march towards the Capital. Their big idea was to install Napoleon III’s cousin, Archduke Maximilian of Austria, as ruler of Mexico.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to Mexico City.    
On the 5th of May, Cinco de Mayo, the French army encountered strong resistance at the Mexican forts of Loreto and Guadalupe.  There, a poorly armed militia of 4,500 Mexicans kicked some French derriere.  They defeated an army of 6,500 Frenchmen fabulously outfitted in uniforms by Coco Channel, saddlebags by Prada.

Unfortunately, the victory was short lived.
Napoleon ( Napster 3.0 ---Napoleon III , who was Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew ) sent 30,000 more troops and captured Mexico City one year later. Which is how for three years (1864-1867) the Archduke of Austria happened to be the ruler of our neighbor to the south. You know, you just can’t make this stuff up.

What happened to the Emperor Of Mexico?
The US eventually pressured the French into withdrawing (We cut off their supply of Jerry Lewis movies and they dropped the chalupa.)

In 1867 Max was captured by Mexican troops under Benito Juarez. He was tried and executed by firing squad. His body was shipped back to Austria where it lies entombed in Vienna in the Imperial Crypt. The inscription on his tomb reads: Yo Tien Taco Bell.

In Mexico the major celebrations for Cinco de Mayo are in the state of Puebla where the battle took place.  However, here in the US, Cinco de Mayo has become kind of a St. Patrick’s Day or Columbus Day.  A day for Mexican-Americans to celebrate and take pride in Mexican history.  A Kiss me I’m Mexican day.

And that’s about all there is to say about the fifth day of May.

Adios, Vaya con dios.

I fart in the general direction of the French.

Generalissimo Dano


  1. Really nice stuff Zacarias. Thanks. On a side note, ever notice that Coronas are imported by a company in Chicago? Chicago has a large, vibrant Mexican community. The original Mexican Chicagoans were imported into the Windy City to break up a strike at the South Side meatpacking plants. They stayed and settled into an old Eastern European neighborhood called Pilsen. Happy Cinco de Mayo.