In an effort to improve US-Mexico relations, a series of shows has been arranged in Washington, DC under the title "Viva Mexico!, which should be "¡Viva México!" There is in Insight (4/27-5/10, 04) an excellent article by Stephen Goode dealing with the two main exhibitions, one of Maya art, the other of paintings by Diego Rivera. About the first, Goode rightly points out that the elegant Mayan art fooled people into believing that Mayan culture represented an ideal society, something like the Aztlan myth of the Valley of Mexico. It was only about fifty years ago that archeologists came to their senses and recognized that Mayan society was very cruel.
Diego Rivers comes across as a talented phony. He was always inventing untrue stories about himself. This revolutionary spent the years of the Mexican Revolution in Paris. I first met Diego Rivers at a small dinner given by the French Ambassador in Mexico. He was persona non grata to the American Embassy. I heard him give a series of lectures at the Colegio Nacional. Lectures is the wrong word, because he simply strolled back and forth across the stage, telling stories mostly about himself, and obviously enjoying the rapt attention of the audience. Most of the stories were the produce of his imagination. He poked fun at José Vasconcelos who at first sponsored Rivera but then, as he became more conservative and pro-Spanish, expressed disgust at the "indiadas" Rivera had painted in the Ministry of Education, of which Vasconcelos was at the time the boss. I discussed this later with Vasconcelos.
The moral of all this is that art and artists should be subject to critical
scrutiny. Some day we shall come to our sesnse and realize that Pablo Picasso
was not only a nasty person but that he won his reputation by politics and by
painting in a style which viewers were afraid to criticize for fear of being
dismissed as bourgeois. Indeed, Picasso's strategy was "épater le
We discussed the celebration in France of the resistance of the Foreign Legion at Camarone. Dick Hancock reports: "I have just read the book Camerone, The French Foreign Legion's greatest Battle by James W. Ryan, Praeger, 1996. This is a 110 page book on the most revered tradition of the French Foreign Legion. This battle took place on April 30, 1963 near the village of Camarón in the state of Veracruz and constitutes a heroic last stand comparable to the Alamo and Thermopolae. It is almost unknown in Mexico but brings tears to the eyes of French Legionnaires. Sixty Legionnaires opposed an army of thousands: it is an exciting story of the Legion's 'Fidelity to the Mission." Many years ago, a visiting professor at Oklahoma University from Bolivia commented on his year-long scholarship visit to France. When I asked him about this experience, he stated, "The French are millionaires of the past." RH: The French dream of the "jour de gloire", which turned into the terror of the French Revolution. The Napoleon brought the "gloire", but he finally brought disaster to France. Glory is elusive and silly.
Randy Black says: "The 5 de Mayo is a Mexican national holiday. The battlefield is now a park in Puebla with a statue of General Zaragoza riding horseback. One of the forts is a war museum with a display of hundreds of toy soldiers set up to show what had happened that day. But it is in the United States of America where the celebration is more festive consisting of parades, music, folklore, dances and food. These festivities are mainly fund raising events and for solidarity among the Mexican-Americans."
From the Houston Chronicle: A holiday throughout Mexico, it is celebrated most intensely in Puebla, where the battlefield is now a park. But the celebrations are often larger, and certainly more commercial, in the United States, especially Texas and other border states". RH: In Mexico, the Cinco de Mayo is a deadly serious affair. and the celebration in Mexico City this tear was very impressive. In the US, Cinco de Mayo is mostly one more excuse for a party.
Randy Black sends a happy-go-lucky Texan comment on my posting about Mexico's Cinco de Mayo holiday: "What a nice post, all except the highly biased, cheap shot at President Bush and a few additional slight inaccuracies in that post. Contrary to that cheap shot you posted, President Bush, who speaks pretty good Spanish, certainly understands the significance of May 5 since the day is celebrated to a much greater degree in Texas than in Mexico. The day has been one of major celebration in Texas as long as I can remember. Parades, festivals in public parks, speeches by politicians and historians, special school events, it’s all common in Texas and has been for decades. President Bush has been present at many of the Cinco de Mayo celebrations as I recall, when he was governor. Further, since he grew up in the Texas oil fields, he would certainly be knowledgeable about the reasons for the Cinco de Mayo. The writer also might be surprised to know that the Napoleon he refers to was NOT Bonaparte, but his nephew, Napoleon III. While the day is a Mexican national holiday (in Mexico), it is in the United States of America where the celebration is more festive consisting of parades, music, folklore, dances and food. These festivities are mainly fund raising events and for solidarity among the Mexican-Americans".
RH:Like most Americans, including Texans, President Bush seems to know little about Mexican history and would `rpbabñy look blank at the name of General Zaragoza. To point this out was not a cheap shot. Having taught and published about Mexico for over half a century, I would be grateful to know the "slight inaccuracies" to which Randy refers. No, I am not surprised that it was Napoleon III. And no, not even in Texas is the Cinco de Mayo celebrated on as grand a scale as in Mexico. Alejo Orvañanos send us from Mexico a more revealing comment: "Ignacio Zaragoza was born in Texas (when Texas was part of Mexico). This fact could be part of an explanation why 5 de Mayo is celebrated in a big way in the US, even more that Mexico's Independence Day (September 16)".
Here is what the Wikpedia says about Ignacio Seguin Zaragoza: "Zaragoza was born in the town of Presidio de la Bahía del Espíritu Santo in what what was then the Mexican province of Texas, now the city of Goliad, Texas. Young Ignacio studied in the seminary of Matamoros, then moved to Monterrey. During Mexico's political unrest of the 1850s Zaragoza joined the army supporting the cause of Mexico's Liberal Party, opposing dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna. He played a part in several important victories which led to the reestablishment of a constitutional democratic government in Mexico. Zaragoza served as Secretary of War from April through October 1861 in the cabinet of President Benito Juárez. When the French forces of Napoleon III invaded Mexico, Zaragoza fought them, first engaging the French at Acultzingo on April 28, 1862, where he was forced to withdraw. Zaragoza understood the favorable defensive position outside of the city of Puebla, where with a smaller and more poorly equipped force he beat back repeated French assaults on May 5th. The French then retreated to Orizaba. Ignacio Zaragoza was known for visiting his sick and injured soldiers, and shortly after his famous victory he contracted typhus, of which he died at the age of 33". RH: His family left Texas when it became independent and was bitter at losing its home to the Americans. He died tragically young. The city of Puebla de los Angeles was renamed Puebla de Zaragoza. The anti-Texas and anti-American undertones of the Cinco de Mayo may explain why there is a move to stress September 16 instead.
The target of Mexican anger should be France, but I did not hear a single reference to France in Mexican speeches. Carmen Negrín, who grew up in Mexico, writes: "Talking about erasing bad memories, in the Liceo Franco-Mexicano in Mexico City, financed and paid by the French government, we used to celebrate the 5° de Mayo with no particular ressentiment against one or the other. This is what is happening now in Europe in spite of its long history of wars". RH: I have long wondered what the French think or rather feel about the Cinco de Mayo. They probably are not happy about it, but remain silent. What Carmen says about Europe opens a can of worms. Are the battles of Waterloo, Sedan and Verdun really forgotten, because of a decline in the interest in national history or for fear of keeping animosities alive? In American history there is an obsession with the Civil War, always presented from the Northern side. Have the French forgotten the battle of Borodino and Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign? There is a kind of conspiracy of silence about it.
Today is a great Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo, May 5. President Bush has given a joyful reception for Mexicans in the White House to show how much he loves them, although it is doubtful that he know what it is all about. Official histories always put a favorable gloss on past events. In the case of Mexico, Father Hidalgo's famous cry (grito) did not demand independence. On the contrary, he shouted "Long live Fernando VII and the Virgin of Guadalupe! Down withthe bad government!" As for the Cinco de Mayo, it celebrates the defeat of an invading French army by General Ignacio Zaragoza at Puebla on May 5, 1862. The French besieged Puebla for two months until it surrendered, and then they occupied Mexico City without any resistance. Thus was born the empire of Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph von Hapsburg of Austria,which lasted until 1867, when his army was defeated by Juarez, who, over worldwide protests, ordered his execution . From all this unhappy period Mexicans chose to remember the short-lived victory of May 5.
This brings up an interesting of psychohistory. Napoleon was defeated and he
should be remembered as a man who brought disaster to France and to Europe.
Yet the "Napoleonic legend" remembered only his triumphs, and in ceremonies
at the Arc de Triomphe no one thinks about his ultimate defeat. It is like an
individual who erases unpleasant memories. On the other hand, a defeat may be
glorious and celebrated. The Spaniards celebrate Numancia, which put up a fierce
but vain resistance to the Romans. They also celebrate the vain resistance of
Zaragoza to the victorious troops of Napoleon. How will countries choose to
present contemporary history? Will the Iraqis celebrate their resistance to
the American forces?. We have posted a comparison between Napoleon's occupation
of Spain and the US occupation of Iraq. We hope we were wrong.
First UFOs filmed by the army
Peter Orne says: "This AP report (5/11/04) certainly is eerie. For the
full text, see
Here is an excerpt:
Mexican Air Force pilots film unidentified objects: Mexican Air Force pilots
filmed 11 unidentified objects in the skies over southern Campeche state, a
Mexican Defense Department spokesman confirmed Tuesday. A videotape made widely
available to the news media shows the bright objects, some sharp points of light
and others like large headlights, moving rapidly in what appears to be a late-evening
sky. The lights were filmed on March 5 by pilots using infrared equipment. They
appeared to be flying at an altitude of about 3,500 meters (11,480 feet), and
allegedly surrounded the Air Force jet as it conducted routine anti-drug trafficking vigilance in Campeche. Only three of the objects showed up on the plane's radar. "Was I afraid? Yes. A little afraid because we were facing something that had never happened before," said radar operator Lt. German Marin in a taped interview". RH: This was big news on Mexican TV.
Regarding the sighting of UFOs over Mexico, from the UK John Heelan reports: "During my time in the RAF in the late 50s, we radar-tracked several groups of "aircraft" that were travelling at many times the speed of sound at high altitude- in the late 50s! As known technology at that time could not produce such speed/altitude, the immediate conclusion was that the ever popular UFOs were making their appearance. The boffins burst that romantic bubble by remarking that under certain weather conditions, certain radar contacts could be bounced off the upper layers of atmosphere. This resulted in our radars picking up echoes of radar contacts that were in fact well beyond the curvature of the Earth, the distance and angle leveraging those fake echoes, in almost a centrifugal manner, to make them appear to be high and extremely fast. [I have no scientific knowledge to know whether the boffins were right."
Ronald Hilton -