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Cinco de Mayo
Today is May 5, Mexico's national holiday. Hector Hugo González-Banos of Stanford has posted an interesting article on the defeat of French troops at Puebla on May 5, 1862. It really was just a setback for the French, who returned in force and seized control of Mexico. However, it made Mexicans proud of its army under General Zaragoza.
It is not Mexico's Independence Day, which is September 16, in honor of Father Hidalgo's proclamation of 1810. Hidalgo's proclamation has been distorted. I stood once with the President of Mexico on the balcony of the national palace when he rang the bell and shouted three times "Viva Mexico!" In fact, Hidalgo shouted "Viva Fernando VII and the Virgin of Guadalupe! Down with bad government!" It was therefore not a declaration of independence, just a protest against the Mexican administration.
The US won its independence through the struggle of a minority, which forced the loyalists to retreat to Canada, thus splitting Anglo-American in two. Canadians argue that their government is better than that of the US. Mexico has no such problem. The enemy on the Cinco de Mayo was the French army, but that hostility has been forgotten. Now the Cinco de Mayo is a joyful celebration of Mexicanidad in which Mexican Americans take part.
The Cinco de Mayo celebrates a victory of which the Mexican army and people are proud. It has a special significance this year. The press has played up the story of a military commander who was in the pay of the drug cartel. Now Televisa has carried out a poll asking if the army should take part in the fight against the drug mafia. Tired of the confusion and the rivalry between various police forces, the public voted by a margin of ten to one in favor of the army's taking part in the war against the drug mafia. Support for the army goes deeper. Mexicans are disgusted with the crime wave and the student strike at the National University (UNAM). Hitherto the students had enjoyed public support in their earlier battle with the army. That is changing. By default, the army has won new respect. ¡Viva México!
Ronald Hilton - 5/5/00