Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day-- that's September 16. Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May, celebrates an incredible victory by native Mexican soldiers over the imperialist French who tried to rule them way back in 1862.
The French wanted to collect their debts from Mexico and, rather than making a deal with Mexican government, decided to put into power a new French emperor, Maximilian. Most native Mexicans were furious.
The Mexican leader, General Zaragosa, ordered Colonel Diaz to attack the flanks of the French army with his excellent cavalry. The French chased them, and were defeated. Those French forces that remained were ordered to attack. They charged through mud, a thunderstorm, and a stampede of cattle stirred up by Native Americans armed only with machetes. They, too, were defeated.
I love the rich, warm flavors of Mexican food, but trying to create anything more than a simple, kid-pleasing taco or Sundays at Moosewood’s tortilla casserole (a family favorite) has left me uncertain as to how to begin.
There are some things which are hard and painful to understand. Slavery. Skyscrapers exploding. War. Tsunamis. Even famous people's ordinary lives.
But in a true story, there may also be courage, hope, love, and determination. When Jeanette Winter tells her readers of historic events and people, she makes sure the stories carry not only the frightening pieces but the parts that leaven the misery as well.
In 1821, Mexico finally won its independence from Spain after a long war. It was a lot like the American Revolution against Britain; heroic generals led an army of poor, brave farmers against the Spanish army and by sheer guts wore the Spanish down. The constitution written in 1824 even called the new nation the United States of Mexico. It was larger than the United States, covering all of modern Mexico plus the western third of the modern United States.