No No No No No!
(Or as they say in Spanish, ¡NO!)
You MIGHT be having a Crunch Wrap Supreme from Taco Bell for lunch today. You MAY be going out to Paco Loco’s tonight. And you MAY end up enjoying too much Sauza. But, lo siento amigos, you will NOT be celebrating Mexican Independence Day.
What you WILL be celebrating is the Battle of Puebla, which was fought on Cinco de Mayo, 1862. You see, Mexico had already gained independence way back in 1810. Unfortunately, not long after that Mexico wrecked their economy and defaulted on payments owed to Spain, Britain and France. And those countries sent their armies to collect on the debt. Mexico cut deals with Spain and Britain, who took their gold and went home. But Napoleon III of France – the most powerful man in the world – wanted more. So he sent his army into the interior, to take over all of Mexico and set up a puppet government. But at the small town of Puebla, 4,000 Mexican troops wiped out 8,000 members of the awesome French Foreign Legion and repulsed the invader. Un milagro.
Si, muy interesante, but why should Americans care? Well, this being 1862, the United States was at the time knee-deep in brother-against-brother carnage. And Napoleon had an ambitious end-game, which was to take over Mexico, supply the American Confederacy with arms and equipment, split the United States in two, and then take over the entire Western Hemisphere. By miraculously winning the Battle of Puebla, Mexico kept France at bay for another year, which bought the Union time to build the largest army in history, turn the tide in 1863 at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, win the Civil War, and solidify control of North America.
Uh-oh, now you’re troubled. You were thinking that Cinco de Mayo was just a novel excuse to hoist a few glasses with umbrellas in them. And now you’ve come to realize that Cinco de Mayo isn’t just a slightly racist shout-out to Mexican heritage. Maybe, just maybe…Cinco de Mayo is a recognition… that the United States owes its existence…to Mexico.
AYE DIOS MIO, NOW YOUR HEAD MUST REALLY BE THROBBING!
There, there. Have a Cuervo, it will help. And as you do so, throw in a heartfelt “¡Viva Mexico!” in honor of our helpful neighbors to the south.
(And consider this. The REAL Mexican Independence Day is September 16, so you’ve got plenty of time to practice screaming, “Happy Dieciséis de Septiembre!”)