Cinco de Mayo

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The Battle of Puebla took place on May 5, 1862 near the city of Puebla, Mexico, during the French invasion of Mexico. It was a major Mexican victory, and is commemorated every year as the Cinco de Mayo, a major Mexican public holiday.

Background In late 1861, Napoleon III of France sent his troops to Mexico, supposedly to collect debts owed by a previous Mexican government which Mexican President Benito Juárez had agreed to pay, but only in installments over time. Neopoleon III really wanted to dispose of the Mexican Constitutional Government and set up a monarchy favorable to France and then expand control to more nations of Central and South America. Napoleon III's troops took the port city of Veracruz on December 8, 1861. It soon became apparent, that the actual goal was not the collection of debts, but rather the control of Mexico.

The Combatants French General Charles Latrille de Lorencez (or the Count of Lorencez), commanded 6,000 to 6,500 well trained troops. Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza commanded some 2,000 to 4,000 forces. Less than 1,000 were regular Mexican army; these were supplemented with local militias, hastily conscripted men from Puebla and the environs, and untrained volunteers.

The Battle The pass leading to Puebla was protected by Fort Loreto and Fort Guadalupe. Zaragoza had defensive trenches dug across the road and linking the forts. The Mexicans were aided by the weather – rainy season downpours had made the ground muddy, slowing the movement of the French artillery. General Lorencez was at first contemptuous of the Mexican troops, assuming they would quickly flee from heavy fighting. At noon, he directed his first charge directly at the Mexican center. The Mexicans held their ground and drove the French back. The French regrouped and launched two more charges, both of which were similarly defeated. The Mexicans then counter-attacked, including a force of Zacapoaxtla and Xochiapulco Indians, many armed only with machetes, who nonetheless succeeded in overrunning part of the French lines. Porfirio Díaz (later to be President of Mexico) led a well disciplined company of Mexican cavalry which flanked the French. The battle was over by 4:30 p.m. The French then pulled back some distance as dark fell. General Lorencez waited two days for a Mexican counter-offensive, but Zaragoza did not wish to attack the French in open country, where he would lose his defensive advantage. Unwilling to risk another attack on the Mexican position and faced with more inclement weather including a hail storm, Lorencez withdrew his forces back to Orizaba.

Aftermath On May 9, 1862, President Juárez declared that the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla would be a national holiday, the Cinco de Mayo. The French realized their forces were inadequate to their intended task, and were eventually reinforced with an additional 30,000 troops. In 1863 the French again marched towards Mexico City – this time bypassing Puebla on their route – and succeeded in taking the capital and installing the puppet regime of Emperor Maximilian. While the Battle of Puebla did not stop the French takeover of Mexico, it was nonetheless an important victory for the Mexicans. It greatly raised Mexican morale and strengthened their determination to resist the invasion. It gave the Juárez government more time to prepare, and while they were forced to abandon Mexico City and retreat to the north of the country, they continued to maintain a working government which was recognized as the legitimate government of Mexico by many foreign nations, and eventually succeeded in defeating Maximilian and his allies in 1867. The Battle of Puebla was also of historic importance in that it quashed Napoleon III's hopes of a quick takeover of Mexico, which he was planning to use as a base to aid the Confederates in the American Civil War.


Did you write all of this up, nan? Thanks, and Happy Cinco de Mayo! To thems who can take it, drink up! I'll definitely dream of those luscious salty sour margs ;)

Thanks for the post. I don't think many people really know the history behind Cinco de Mayo.


Thanks, nan, this was great. I have gotten an in-depth education this week on Cinco de Mayo from the Reader bloggers. Smart cookies!

Every year at work I put on a guacamole contest to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Man am I stuffed right now.

Oh, and I have French and Mexican heritage... I wonder who I would have been rooting for during the Battle of Puebla. Probably Mexico, I like the food better.

  • Joe

OOoooooh, good stuff, nan, thanks and happy Cinco de Mayo!!! :)

Great post-most people think today is Mexican Independance day, but it is like you posted, a major victory over the French.

"Probably Mexico, I like the food better."

Your logic is flawless, Tiki. Me too. Just think, if the French had taken over Mexico, we might have escargot stands instead of taco stands everywhere in SD.

Boy, would that suck...

no SDaniels...i didn't author this..but i put it in as a respectful blog for Mexican and their aficionados

i would never have the historical expertise to pen it as conciselly

thx bohemianopus...Refried did a great blog on this...but a good thing can't be repeated to often

oh Joe...now ur making me hungry..share wilya!!


mega yuks!!!!

thank Gawd auntie G!!!

thx Cuddlefish and Puppy

i'm glad we got French dressing out of it tho!!

no i don't mean the skimpy lingerie

thx Grantie..Refried's made me repost another version...for some who didn't read his

i think we all read his ...with lime juice sprinkled on it ;-))

i had Chili Rellenos made out of purple New Mexican Chiles

Yummy!! Chili Rellenos are a hands-down favorite!! Where do you find purple chiles?

u can get them dried at Kaelins or Mi Puebla probably any good Mexican market Grantie

My version was a tad different, in that I actually set out to either confirm or disprove whether or not Napoleon was seriously considering entering the U.S. Civil War on the side of the Confederacy. One problem is that there really isn't any documentation of his true intentions. What I posited was based on his history in foreign affairs. I did the majority of the research about a month ago and intended to write a large article, but I forgot all about it until the last minute.

And Ms. Grant, there are purple New Mexico Chiles, but most of the time they're either green or red. I've never seen any of the purple ones here in Mexico, but I did, at times, in California. I don't know if they grow them specifically or they come out purple accidentally. Google reveals nothing.

hi refried..i loved them when at Christmas my boyfriend's relative brought them from New Mexico fresh...they used them in tamales(made with pork roast)

his family said they were Spanish (his names was Estaban Martines) and they were very fussy about it...they were pretty fuzzy about their son dating a Gringo too hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha...but they did teach me to make tamales..big family many hands were needed

i dated him for 4 years

the purple ones taste different i think Refried...don't u think so?

Nan, I honestly haven't had a purple one fresh, only dried, and I cook them together with the red ones to make sauces. I know that red jalapeños taste different from the green ones (better in my opinion). If I ever see a purple New Mexico chile here (they call them "Chile Colorado" in Mexico), I'll buy some and certainly pass along my opinion.

As for making tamales, I've never tried, but I've been taught. One cool thing about living here is that you can go to your local tortillaria and buy some masa already prepared to make tamales :) Some day I'm going to try and make them. The best way to cook them is out in the open fire, but I have no room here to make a fire, so I'll likely have to go to my inlaws house when I'm ready to make some.

My mother-in-law taught me how to make matzo balls. Same thing. Big family, lots of matzo balls needed. But you have to follow the recipe to a T!! No deviating. Just like tamales. Her favorite thing to say when I would snicker about the precise measures? "Don't laugh"! I always laugh. Can't help myself.

Refried, with your family, I'm suprised you have not embarked on the art of tamale making!! It sounds like an adventure and then some. Let us know if you decide to do it. Then write about it.

Gonna buy me some purple. Chiles, that is...thanks for tip, nan!

I'll certainly blog about it when it happens. Probably, a better story, is when we lived up the hill near my in-laws. They had three people from their family come up and visit from Guerrero State, interesting people. They had dreams of crossing the border, became instantly disappointed that it wasn't so easy as it was ten years prior. They didn't have a lot of money with them. They stayed for quite a few months anyway, the two men tried to work but apparently their hearts weren't in it (they would work about a week and quit for a month). The lady, in order to raise the necessary cash to get back home, borrowed twenty dollars from me. She made tamales, sold them, used part of the profit for more ingredients for more tamales, and so on, until she'd made about a thousand dollars, and they went back home. I haven't heard from them since.

over an open fire Refried...i didn't know that either...if u ever do it Refried take a video for us

love the $1000 story...i wonder why they were disappointed...has Tijuana changed that much???

i learned to make Christmas tamales too...had to mix the masa..it would be cool to have pre-made...it's a long process..but bringing everyone in to help...so sweet the community interaction in a labor of love

Matzo Ball Soup...have u gone to DZ Akins and eaten it...it's great!!!

another family cooking love fest!!!

we all made enuff tamales to give them to our friends for Christmas...i never think of Christmas without it being connected to making tamales

lovely memories

DZ's where we get our chopped liver and creamed herring for the pre-Passover gorge. Their mish-mash is possibly the best soup on the planet.

We always make way too much food too so everyone gets a to-go box for the next day. I love these big family get togethers. You can't beat a holiday where the consumption of four glasses of wine is mandatory!!

u sound like such a loving family Grantie...i love it!!!

Matzo soup forever...with nummy chicken and vegies

My family is all over the country, so to have Jewish in-laws all living nearby has brought me back to all the traditional holidays I used to share with my own Catholic family. I never differentiate. Every holiday, no matter what faith, is sacred to me.

SD drops in a moment to wax chidingly:

I'm surprised at the fearful palates on this page! Refried'll tell ya that REAL regional Mexican cuisine, makes frequent, economic, and sensible use of the animal parts Americans don't consider to be food.

Escargot? It tastes of garlic and butter usually, with a jellyfish-like consistency at first bite. To me, they are really nothing, just bits of protein, like Mexican tripe and offal in general...

The French don't consider them as much a staple as you think--they are not on the everyday, weekly menu, and neither is foie gras (which I vehemently oppose!).

Btw, you wouldn't likely have "escargot stands" if the French took over; you would have Turkish and generally Mid-Eastern influenced street foods, and/or crepe and chestnut stands. And the French really know how to put out an entire outdoor market full of stands with yummy foods.

Mexico and France: Lands of Delicious Sauces!

Yay for La France, too! Cocorico! Viva Mole! Mmmmmmm

Bless your heart, SD, will make you all the mole you can possibly eat the minute you ask me. Looking forward to that day.

i spent 4 years with a REAL Spanish man...and a year with a Chinese boy where i learn to eat Chicken claws...many years in San Francisco where we ate at a French restaurant and had marinated beef tongue as an appetizer...the soup was always changing because it cooked constantly and yesterday's soup was a new soup today

i make a terrific Lamb Mediterranean with saffron and pilaf

soothed many a hangover with Tripe soup...it seems many here have adventurous palates...which is great...as many don't and would be happy to have every meal be meat and potatoes or meat and beans

but that's OK 'cause i love that too!!!

there is one country dish however i don't like

beef and kidney pie

i understand why the French let their meat get to the turning...and that's part of the reason they developed such tasty sauces to cover the taste of almost spoiled meat

clever frogs!!

everyone pitching in...and lovely conversation around the table is to me the best part of a sit down pass around meal

viva la famiglia!!!

SD, I missed your comment, but you're right, Mexicans have learned to utilize every bit of the cow here. Lengua (tongue) is one of my favorites, and my wife cooks it so well (I helped, I recommended the crock pot on low all night, it came out magnificent!). Other than tacos de lengua, one would be surprised at how delicious are tacos de cabeza (head), tacos de cesos (brain), and tacos de ojo (eye - the meat in and around the socket, not the eyeball itself). Tacos de tripas (beef intestines) are also quite popular here, although I pass on them most of the time. I love the flavor, but the texture is too chewy for me.

Other tasty oddities here that utilize parts of the animal usually discarded in the U.S. include pescuezo (breaded, fried chicken necks), espinazo de res (beef backbone, usually boiled in a sauce), and menudo (made from beef stomach).

I'm a big fan of cabeza tacos. I remember my grandfather would do a beef head pit bbq for parties when I was young. Amazingly good.

  • Joe

this blog was so much fun to do and be involved in...just think...2 months ago all was warm and convivial..i'm sorry to see things change

ah well..friendly moments often don't last long enuff do they???

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