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The Battle of Puebla

on May 6th, 2012


(French Zouaves encounter Mexican cavalry at the first Battle of Puebla, 1862. Photo Wikipedia via Mike Manning.)

I don’t think I have a lot more of those sorts of trips left in me. Of course, my learned co-worker pointed out that there were not a lot of requirements left for this sort of thing, and I shook my head in wonder.

We can let the politics thing go. For all the yammering that is going to go on for the next months of summer- more Occupy demonstrations, tits and tats about the economy- I want to highlight just a couple things for you on the way to mint juleps and the Derby later today.

One of them is Julia, a fictional woman whose fictional life was rolled out in a PowerPoint show about all the cool Administration programs that benefit millions of Americans, especially women. It is available at the President’s campaign website and I strongly invite you to make a visit. It is very interesting:

http://www.barackobama.com/life-of-julia

It is curious that we are concentrating on Really Big Things, like a modest increase in interest rates for a small sub-set of college students on subsidized Pell Grants- Julia is one of them- against the continuing disaster of the greatest economic crisis since the Crash of ’29. Beats me how we get to this. There are some big deals out there- the role of America in the wide world, Iran’s Shia Bomb, the massive decline in participation in the labor force, the intrusive loss of privacy, the de facto establishment of a National Security State just to hit three- why on earth is Julia and her endless tapping of the public coffer the centerpiece of this campaign?

Must be that small group that meets Sundays in the West Wing. You can read about that in the Gray Lady this morning, if that is your cup of Dazbog. Jeff Zelany nails it here.

I prefer to take the fifth of May as a great collision in cultures. There is nothing we cannot appropriate as a decent excuse for the abuse of alcohol. I don’t know what St. Patrick would think of what we have done with his day in the name of solidarity with the downtrodden Irish masses.

Today is not green beer. It is tequila. Cinco de Mayo is now a Spanglish word in the American lexicon. It commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the great Franco Incursion.

You might ask what the hell that was. We have the Monroe Doctrine, right? All European powers are supposed to stay out of “our” hemisphere, right? The President said so.

Napoleon Tres took the opportunity of our preoccupation with blowing each other up (1861-65) to land troops in Veracruz, the same port where American forces landed in 1848 to storm the Halls of Montezuma.

It was not a happy experience for the French, and forces loyal to General Benito Juarez managed to defeat them at the battle of Puebla on this day in 1862. The victory was an inspirational event for wartime Mexico, and it provided a stunning revelation to the rest of the world, whose mainstream media had expected a rapid victory for French arms.

The French were eventually victorious, winning the Second Battle of Puebla on 17 May 1863 and then pushed on to Mexico City, forcing Juarez into exile and installing Habsburg Archduke Maximilian on the throne in 1864. Max proved to be too liberal for the large conservative hacienda owners and too conservative for the more liberal supporters of Juarez, who set up shop in Veracruz. He tried hard, even adopting the old Emperor’s kids (there is still a pretender to the throne out there) but his politics and nationality were not right for the time.

Once the Americans were done slaughtering each other, Washington woke from its preoccupation and threw its support to Juarez and the Liberals, and the Johnson administration (the older one) prevailed on Juarez to execute the hapless Archduke in 1867.

You can flash forward through a lot of our common history on this, right down to the latest nine bodies hanging from the bridge at Nueva Laredo. But the major misconception is that Cinco de Mayo is a major holiday in Mexico. Not so much.

President Juárez declared the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla a national holiday, but the misconception here in the US is that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day. Of course the actual Grita de Dolores is celebrated on dieciséis de septiembre, the 16th of September. I think I can find enough excuses to drink right through.

That was the other thing I meant to mention to you. Benjy Netanyahu just announced that he is going to have early elections this September. That is a full year early, and just in case you hadn’t recalled, the Israelis have had a thing about those pesky Iranians and their nuclear program. One of the Mercedes Mullahs was spouting some rhetoric about the Jewish State that would really irritate you if you lived there. “Israel is a one bomb state,” declared Mr. Hashemi-Rafsanjani, Chairman of the Assembly to Discern the Interests of the State.


(Estimated blast effects (surface and atmospheric) of a nuclear detonation in Israel. This would be very very bad. Photo Google Earth.)

Now, assuming that Mr. Rafsanjani realizes that the Palestinian people are sort of entwined with the Israelis, and would die along with them, his are still not the sort of words that comfort the more bellicose wing of Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud Party. Early elections mean that Benjy would have a coalition government for several weeks as he forms the new ruling partnership, and hence a free hand. Why September?

I don’t know. Maybe the small group in the West Wing has some thoughts about that.

I checked the lunar phases. Would you believe that the dark of the moon falls on Mexican Independence Day?

So, here is a toast to poor old Max and the Second Empire, and to Mexico herself, a land of magic and smoking mirrors. What is it they used to say? Pity the nation so far from God, and so close to the United States?

“Salud, amor y pesetas. Y tiempo para gastarlas!”

“Health, Love and money, and the time to spend it!”


Copyright 2012 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

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