TC Cinco de Mayo

Jonatan Reyes performs a solo with the Texas City High School mariachi band at the annual Cinco de Mayo festival at Nessler Park on Saturday, May 4, 2019.

Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday, but its roots are in Texas. The holiday celebrates the victory of a Mexican army over the French on May 5, 1862.

The army was led by Maj. Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, one of the most interesting Texans in history.

Zaragoza was born at Presidio de la Bahía, at what is now Goliad. The fort guarded Mission Nuestra Senora del Espiritu Santo de Zuniga and the settlement that grew up around it.

In the days of Spanish rule, educated men came to the Texas wilderness to try to create a city of God among native peoples.

The grand experiment failed.

Ignacio Zaragoza’s father, Sgt. Miguel Zaragoza, was an infantryman at the fort.

The Texas Revolution divided the family when Ignacio was 7.

A relative of Ignacio’s mother, Juan Seguin, became vice president of the Republic of Texas. Sgt. Zaragoza remained loyal to the Mexican government.

After the revolution, Sgt. Zaragoza settled in Matamoros. Ignacio’s parents sent him to a seminary in Monterrey. Ignacio Zaragoza did not take to the priesthood but thought he might have military talent.

When he was rejected for admission into the academy for cadets, he signed on as a militiaman. As a teenager, he fought Zachary Taylor in the Mexican-American War.

President Juarez recognized Zaragoza’s ability and made him minister of war.

With the United States preoccupied with its own civil war, France sent an army to occupy Mexico in a dispute over debts.

But on May 5, 1862, Zaragoza led a Mexican army against the French at Puebla. The conventional wisdom was that no Mexican army could stand up against one of the best professional armies of Europe.

Zaragoza proved everyone wrong. The victory stunned everyone — friend and foe alike.

Zaragoza was recalled to the capital to receive the Benemérito de la Patria. Somewhere along the way, he contracted typhoid. He died at 33.

Puebla was not the decisive battle of the war.

It took years for Mexico to get rid of the French.

But through the long war, Mexican soldiers remembered something they learned under a young general from Texas — the taste of victory.

• Editorial Board

Editor’s note: This editorial, written by former Daily News Editor Heber Taylor, was first published on May 5, 2014.

(4) comments

Rusty Schroeder

Holiday made by the Beer Distributors, idiotic editorial.

Carlos Ponce

A reprinted editorial merits a repeated comment:
Carlos Ponce May 5, 2014 7:04am
The Mexican army won the battle but lost the war. It wasn't until The United States intervened following our Civil War that the French were removed from Mexico in 1867. Cinco de Mayo is not a National Holiday in Mexico but a regional one celebrated around Puebla where the battle was fought. And why do we celebrate it here? Corona beer wanted a promotion to boost cerveza sales in the United States so promoted Cinco de Mayo here to do so. And it worked. A better date to celebrate Mexican culture would be 16 de Sept. - Mexican Independence Day. Strange that most Texas schools make a big deal out of Cinco de Mayo but not March 2 - Texas Independence Day or December 29-Texas Statehood Day (Whoops, we're in the middle of Christmas Holidays!)
And the editorial was also reprinted in 2016, so:
Carlos Ponce May 5, 2016 8:06am
Cinco de Mayo is not a National Mexican Holiday. It is a state holiday in Puebla and Veracruz. They won the Battle of Puebla but lost the war. It was not until American intervention following the Civil War that the French were ousted in 1867. The French won the Second Battle of Puebla on May 17, 1863. When the capital fell, Juárez's government was forced into exile.With the backing of France, the Habsburg Archduke Maximilian became Emperor of Mexico in the short-lived Second Mexican Empire.If it were not for American intervention and military support the Second Mexican Empire would have endured. Instead of stomping on the American flag and setting it afire they should be thanking the United States for helping out and flying the Stars and Stripes high in gratitude. Reason why Cinco de Mayo is celebrated here: Corona Beer as part of their promotion in the 1980s. Before that it was sparsely celebrated mostly by immigrants.

Don Schlessinger

Carlos, thank you for the interesting lesson in Texas and Mexican history.

Bailey Jones

Way back when, my step-mom in Dallas was a member of a Hispanic social club, El Club Capri, and they would always have a tamale booth set up for Cinco de Mayo in Lee Park, selling her mother's tamales - the best you ever tasted (as every good grandson says). Good times.

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