Manzanillo celebrates

Cinco de Mayo

April 27-May 11

Viva Mexico!
Ballet Folklorico courting dance

Just what is Cinco de Mayo, and why does Manzanillo celebrate it with "Fiestas de Mayo," a 2-week festival? And why should Americans honor it, too?

If not for Benito Juarez, who was Mexico's President, on May 5, 1862, Americans could be speaking French as their primary language!

President Juarez was an interesting character.  Earlier  presidents  of the Republic of Mexico, such as Santa Anna, were corrupt and considered themselves members of the new privileged class, along with the traditionally wealthy and influential clergy. The mestizos and the Indians continued to suffer discrimination and poverty.


Singers commemorate Cinco de Mayo

The reform movement, initiated in Mexico by Benito Juarez,  who was, very fittingly, a Zapotec Indian, began in the late 1850s. Born in the state of Oaxaca, Juarez rose from domestic service as a houseboy to the study of law, and finally to the presidency. His struggle in the liberal cause was supported by the nation's  mestizo and Indian majority.

Their goal was to restrict privilege and redistribute the wealth, particularly the extensive holdings of the church.

His administration had the support of the United States, but the U.S. had problems of its own: The Civil War. Before the War  Between the States, America was a rising power in the world. Many other nations considered the U.S. a potential world threat., especially the French.

Pleading for a dance
Begging for her hand

Emperor Napoleon III (nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte) despised the United States, and planned to conquer Mexico, then join forces with the Confederacy to help divide the United States into two weaker and less threatening nations.

Modern celebration of an historic past
Rock group performing

Charreada (Rodeo)

Mexico was in financial chaos, and had borrowed heavily from France, Spain and Great Britain. President Juarez had suspended the payments for 2 years because the Mexican treasury was almost bankrupt, partially because of the Mexican-American War, but also because of the rampant corruption of former high-ranking officials.

Ballet Folklorico depicting the Revolution

Booths selling sweet treats at the fair
Vendors selling a variety of wares

Eventually, the representatives of Spain and Britain came to an agreement with President Juarez and went home.  Napoleon stayed, and in fact, brought in 4,500 troops and headed off to Mexico City. His plan was to conquer Mexico, install French Emperor Maximillian of Hapsburg, then proceed north to help the  Confederacy  win the Civil War.

The French Army had not known defeat for 50 years, and was thought to be the finest and best equipped in the world. As the French Army , along with sympathetic Mexican troops, left the port of Veracruz, they foolishly assumed that the Mexicans would surrender, and let their capital fall to the enemy.

Flying feet at the cockfights

President Juarez, however, had ordered Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza to defend the city with just 2,000 troops, and citizens who used only farming tools as weapons. 

When the battle was over 2 hours later, the French withdrew, and the Battle of Puebla  became a symbol of Mexican pride from that day, Cinco de Mayo, to the present.

Dance of the Revolution
Folkloric Ballet depicting the violence
of the Revolution

Dance of the Revolution

Although a year later the French would return with reinforcements, they were delayed long enough for the Civil War to end, and  U.S. President Abraham Lincoln sent Union forces to the Texas/Mexican border under General Phil Sheridan. 

The U.S. made sure that Sheridan and the Mexican troops got all the weapons, ammunition, and supplies needed to expel the French troops.

Students from a local school
perform dances of Hawaii

Dancing with machetes

The American Legion of Honor marched in the Victory Parade in Mexico City. Quite possibly, without the series of events which took place in Mexico on May 5, 1862, and without the 2,000 brave Mexicans who stood up to Napoleon, the United States might be now named the French Republic, and we'd all be speaking another tongue!

A Fiesta of Freedom and Liberty--that's Cinco de Mayo--a concept which both Mexicans and Americans have fought and died for ever since!

Dance of the Old Man, mask from Suchitlan
Dance of the Old Man