Monday, July 1, 2019

Original Villages | Peñon de los Baños: The Battle of Cinco de Mayo

On el Cinco del Mayo, the Fifth of May, 1862, the Mexican Army defeated the French Army in the Battle of Puebla. The French, on the orders of Emperor Napoleon III and with the support of Mexican conservatives, had invaded the country to remove the Reform government of Benito Juárez and replace it with that of Emperor Maximilian I, a younger brother of the Hapsburg Emperor of the Austrian Empire. 

Unfortunately, reinforced French forces returned a year later and won the second battle of Puebla and then went on to take Mexico City. They installed Emperor Maximilian who ruled until 1867, when Napoleon realized he had to withdraw his army because of threats of war from adversary countries in Europe and pressure from the United States, which had just ended its Civil War. This left Maximilian with only limited conservative Mexican forces. The Reform army of the Juárez government quickly defeated the conservative Mexican army. It then captured Maximilian and, on Juárez's orders, executed him and the conservative Mexican generals to send a message to Europe that Mexico was a sovereign country, never to be invaded again.

The occasion of the first, victorious Battle of Puebla is grandly celebrated in the City of Puebla, but not much elsewhere in Mexico. There is, however, we learned, a celebration in Pueblo el Peñon de los Baños, the Rocky Mount of the Baths, whose history we introduced in a prior post. So, we attended the celebration of Cinco de Mayo in el Peñon in 2019. It turned out to be a delightful extravaganza.

When we arrive, the Mexican Army is gathering.


The hand carving on some of the rifle butts
is quite astonishing,
but then, this is Mexico,
a country of craftsmanship.

The French gather
on the opposite side.

Algerian forces?
France ruled Algeria from 1830.

The French advance against the Mexicans.

The Mexicans appear to retreat, firing cannons and rifles as they go.

For safety,
they fire into the ground

A banda, of course, sets the rhythm of action.

Irregular Mexican troops are coming up behind the French,
entrapping them.

We ask about the black faces.
"We are los indios!"

Evidently, the wealthy hacendados, owners of large rural haciendas, also take part.
By the way, la señora's skirt is also a work of art.

Charras, upperclass cowgirls, join in, too.
The defense of Mexico is a unified action.

Then another group appears
in dress we have never seen before!

Note the Virgin of Guadalupe,
the unifying symbol of
indigenous and
Spanish Mexicans

We are awed by the intricacy and beauty of their tocados (headdresses)
but have no idea who these people represent.
Then we see a banner saying they, too, are a battalion of los indios.

The battle moves up the peñon, the steep hill of the pueblo, such that we aren't able to follow to see the climax, but what we have witnessed has been quite exciting and intriguing. We wish we knew more about the black-faced indios and those in the elaborately ribboned tocados

In any case, with their participation, together with that of some wealthy hacendados, in addition to regular Mexican army troops, the message is definitely that of the unity of Mexico against the invasion of the foreign French. It is a day for Mexicans to be proud, a day to celebrate and remember. 

The crest is the Mexican national crest,
a golden eagle
with a serpent in its teeth,
seated on a nopal cactus.

¡Viva Cinco de Mayo! ¡Viva México!

Delegación Venustiano Carranza
(named after the first post-Revolutionary president, 1917-20)
Pueblos and Colonias

Pueblo Peñon de los Baños is dark blue area north of the Mexico City International Airport,
marked by red and orange star.
Terminal 1 of the airport is long, white building directly south of the pueblo.

Delegación/Alcaldá Venustiano Carranza
is the chartreuse area
in the northeast of
Mexico City

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