Today is Cinco De Mayo, an unofficial Mexican holiday, which is heavily celebrated in Puebla, Mexico, and California and Texas, USA. We were fortunate to be in Puebla for the Cinco de Mayo parade in 2008. We also have toured the battle field and one of the two forts defended by the Mexicans against the French in 1862. You can read why Cinco de Mayo should celebrated by all Americans (Mexicans and USA) by either viewing or reading the following article.
http://www.vivacincodemayo.org/history.htm – skip if you watched above video.
What is often not appreciated is that 4,000 Mexican troops had little chance against 8,000 French troops and allies, except for two “aces” up their sleeve. The first “high card” played by the Mexican defenders near the modern day city of Puebla was to use their cavalry to try to out flank the French army and thus draw off the French cavalry from the main battle, at least one version of the battle so states. The second “ace” played by the Mexican defenders was to call for additional help from Zacapoaxtla Indians in northern Puebla who used their sharp machetes to repel the first French troops advancing on the forts. The next link is an article translated by Google which details the Indians from the general area of Zacapoaxtla who hurried south to Puebla to join the battle and “save the day.” The link takes a moment to load because it is being translated.
We have also seen TWICE the community of Zacapoaxtla from a distance while engaged in medical mission work in northern Puebla but did not fully appreciate its significance at the time. Here are two photos of the community of Zacapoaxtal taken early in the morning from the nearby village of Tatoxca (not on the map).
So, Zacapoaxtal villagers, and those from surrounding villages that joined them, became “symbols of heroism” as they stood against invaders of their country and held even though their victory was short lived. Apparently, a mural in their community depicts them in battle with their “sharp machetes” blazing in the sun as they decapitate the enemy in battle. One writer described the Indian frontal assault like this:
The remaining French infantrymen charged the Mexican defenders through sloppy mud from a thunderstorm and through hundreds of head of stampeding cattle stirred up by Indians armed only with machetes.
Next time I must go into the community and see that mural!
In the meantime, you might want to view them monument to the Mexican general Ignacio Zaragoza who, along with future Mexican dictator, Porfirio Diaz, defeated in battle the high tech and famous French army, even if it was only for a few days.
It is too bad that the same battle that demonstrated the bravery of Indian people also “further seasoned” colonel Porfirio Diaz, who would later rule Mexico with an iron fist for more than 30 years. It is notable that independence from his rule is being widely and broadly celebrated this year in Mexico on its 100th anniversary this November 20th, another important date in Mexican history.
Stephen Sardeson, Genuine-Tourist.com, reporting from Baraboo, WI, USA