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MEXICO: 5th of May

Elias Castillo gives us the Mexican viewpoint of the Cinco de Mayo, May 5 celebrations:"Mexican historians in Mexico have always been puzzled as to why Mexican-Americans in the U.S., consider Cinco de Mayo a major reason for celebrating. The historians do not consider the victory at Puebla a major Mexican battle. In Mexico it is remembered on that date, but that's all. Most Mexicans don't even consider it a reason to celebrate. The real celebration for independence is held on Sept. 16 ) when Mexico declared independence from Spanish rule*. The French incursion is considered minor in comparison with the Grito de Independencia (or Independence Cheer) that ended Spanish rule. The French were invited into Mexico by a group of rather pinheaded Mexican Francophiles. France took the offer and, thinking it would be easy to dominate Mexico, sent troops into Mexico. Eventually, France, under U.S. pressure not to meddle in New World affairs or nations, and facing intense Mexican guerilla action, abandoned Maximilian, a dimwitted Austrian prince. whom France had installed as Emperor of Mexico. Carlota, his wife, pleaded in vain to have France continue its support of him. France's decision was final and no help was forthcoming. Carlota eventually went insane--hence she is known in Mexico as Carlota la loca.

Benito Juarez, as president of Mexico, led the forces that eventually pushed out the remainder of the French forces. He approved the execution of Maximilian. The would-be European ruler's reign began crumbling when he ordered extremely harsh measures be taken against anyone opposing his government. Other than the Francophiles, no one in Mexico cared much for him. The French incursion, however, did attract numerous French citizens to Mexico, where they prospered, even after Maximilian's reign ended. A number of French soldiers also stayed behind and settled in Mexico. Today, the legacy of that French incursion, is that much of Mexico's upper class are rabid Francophiles and send their children to school in France. Many of them then refuse to return to Mexico, maintaining the country is so downtrodden they have no future in their native country, but I rather think it's because Paris is obviously more attractive than Mexico City and its dangerous pollution and crooked cops".

RH: *I must repeat that the famous grito (shout) of September 16, 1810 did not establish Mexican independence, even though that is the politically correct story since it gives Mexico an independence day. I have stood with the President of Mexico on the balcony of the Nation Palace when he shouts three times "¡Viva México!". In fact, what Father Hidalgo said was " Long live Ferdinand VII and the Virgin of Guadalupe, and down with bad government!" The Emperor Maximilian may have been a dimwit, but he was a noble figure, and there is a romantic aura around him and Carlota.

Ronald Hilton - 5/7/03