May fifth 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 Maximillian, 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 4 th
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, Maximillian 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 located in the highest place 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 being used
for various purposes.

Maximillian 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 May fifth 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.


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