History of Cinco De Mayo

History of
Cinco De Mayo


(Archivist’s Note: I found the text of the article below on the WayBack Machine.)

Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May, 1862, was a significant date in the histories and destinies of both the United States and Mexico, when both countries looked to their leaders to unite their respective nations.

The leader of the United States was President Abraham Lincoln. He was born in 1809 to a poor family. He was self-educated, studied law, entered politics, and in 1846 became a U.S. Congressman. The leader of Mexico was President Benito Juarez. He was born in 1806, a full blooded North American Indian who spoke the Zapotec Indian dialect until he was 13. He also studied law, entered politics, and in 1846 became a Mexican Congressman. Juarez greatly admired Lincoln’s unpopular stance against the war with Mexico from 1846-1848, during the time they were both in their respective congresses.

Juarez became president of Mexico in 1858 and Lincoln became President of the U.S. in 1860. It was a time of great turmoil in both countries. One of Lincoln’s great fears was that French Emperor Napoleon III would intervene in the U.S. Civil War by aiding the Confederacy and thereby gaining a foothold in our continent, counter to our Monroe Doctrine. Lincoln had to rely on Juarez to keep the French troops out of the U.S.

When Napoleon’s troops landed in Mexico in 1862, Juarez ordered his general, Ignacio Zaragoza, a Texan, to attack the French at the City of Puebla, on May 5, 1862. Even though outnumbered 2 to 1, Zaragoza and his 5000 ill-equipped troops defeated Napoleon III’s experienced imperial troops, thus showing the Mexican people that they could have faith in themselves and in their leaders.

Administering the country from a carriage, just ahead of the pursuing French troops in Northern Mexico, Benito Juarez sent his wife Margarita and his family to New York in 1863, to keep them out of harm’s way. Upon her arrival, Margarita was entertained as the wife of a head of state at a presidential reception in Washington, D.C., and later was honored at a dinner held by Secretary Stewart and a ball given by General Grant. Sadly, Benito and Margarita’s two sons, one a U.S. citizen, died while living in New York and are buried there.

Several weeks after the surrender of the Confederacy in April of 1865, Lincoln sent a stern message to Napoleon III that 600,000 battle-hardened Union troops in the U.S. would cross the Mexican border if the French troops did not withdraw. Although Lincoln was assassinated shortly thereafter, his successor, President Andrew Johnson, continued to support Juarez. He sent arms and supplies Juarez’s troops. In addition, American mercenaries fought with Juarez’s army.

The French troops finally left Mexico, and Maximilian was tried and executed. The United States Government assisted the reunion of the Juarez family by placing the revenue cutter, Wilderness, at the disposal of AMadam Juarez and party, fourteen persons in all. On July 14, 1867, the cutter docked at Veracruz and Margarita and the family were reunited with Juarez.

The United States owes a great debt of gratitude to Benito Juarez for keeping the French out of our Civil War and preventing a new European presence on our contingent.

El Hispanic and the Portland – Guadalajara Sister City Association are proud of a Native American who during his lifetime did so much for both the U.S. and Mexico. Our Cinco de Mayo is dedicated to his memory.

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