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Today (Cinco de Mayo) commemorates the victory of the Mexicans over the French army in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It was a large victory for Mexico as they were able to defeat a the larger, better equipped French army of 6500 with a small militia of 4500 men.

It was a short lived victory, as Napoleon III sent more troops from Europe and over a year’s time was able to install Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, his nephew, as ruler of Mexico.

It is not Mexico’s Independence Day as many may assume. Mexico’s Independence Day is September 16. It celebrates Mexico’s independence from Spain. It is as important as our July 4th to the Mexican people.

After achieving independence from Spain in 1821, and experiencing subsequent wars thereafter, Mexico had accumulated a large debt to many countries, France being one. It was for the supposed unpaid debt that France felt the need to advance its empire. Mexico had reneged on their debt to England and Spain, which caused these countries to withdraw support, allowing France to invade.

The United States and Abraham Lincoln were very sympathetic to the Mexican cause, but because of the Civil War, were unable to offer any real assistance against France.
After France had taken over the government of Mexico, Maximilian and his Empress Carlota took up residence in Chapultepec Castle. Chapultepec (cha-pull-te-peck) is the Nahuatl Indian word for “at the grasshopper’s hill,” and was the highest location in the City of Mexico.

The castle was initiated by Viceroy Bernardo de Galvez during the Spanish occupation of Mexico. It was abandoned during the rebellion between Spain and Mexico, then later used for various purposes.

Maximilian brought craftsman and artists, along with various objects of art and furniture from Europe to improve the castle and make it more livable. He also commissioned a long avenue of approach and spectacular rooftop gardens.

Today it is a beautiful tourist attraction.

Many find today a good reason to hoist a few and have a fiesta, but there is a real history behind the beer fest it has become in recent years.


Candace Hardin

Candace Hardin resides in Atlanta, Georgia. She is fluent in Spanish and a student of Latin and history. She is a columnist on and has a blog, Originally from North Carolina, her writing and beliefs have been heavily influenced by the Appalachian culture and tradition.