You probably wonder why May 1st. is observed as a Holiday in Mexico. The International Labor Movement Day, commonly known as Labor Day, is celebrated in most countries around the world. Oddly enough, although Labor Day in the US and in Canada take place in September, this day is celebrated paying tribute to union workers, the Chicago Martyrs, who fought for an eight hour labor day, starting with a strike on May 1st., 1886 and culminating in the Haymarket affair
In addition to the well-known Conquest by the Spaniards, internal conflicts and several interventions of other countries ending in wars, are also part of Mexico’s history. Some took place against the US and France. While Mexico was still concentrating on consolidating itself after the Independence (1821), the first armed conflict with a foreign country, France, took place between 1838 and 1839. Turmoil, anarchy, social and economic problems affected both Mexican as well as foreign nationals living in the country.

So hard were these times that mandatory loans from the population were imposed by the government in order to resolve its economic predicaments. This was certainly not well received by many nationals and foreigners alike, and, as is the case, claims reached Paris. One of these claims brought about a war with France that, believe it or not, had its origins in a restaurant and caused by…pastry. It came to be known as the “Pastry War”…a story for another time.

May 5, 1862 or, as otherwise known, the Battle of Puebla is a very important episode in Mexican history because it marks the defeat, by the Mexican Army, of large numbered and better equipped French troops. Due to the financial crisis that troubled the country, the recently elected President of Mexico, Benito Juarez, suspended foreign payments for two years. A year earlier, the creditors (France, England and Spain) had signed a treaty to intervene Mexico to defend their own interests. By February 1862, England and Spain withdrew from the treaty and from the country after several diplomatic negotiations with the Mexican government. However, seeing Mexico as a juicy bounty, France would not leave. The conflict unfolded. French imperial troops stationed in Veracruz headed off to invade Mexico City, crossing through Puebla. On the first large battle (April 28), the French lost 500 soldiers. Aiming to reach their destination- Mexico City-, on May 5 the French were besieged and defeated in Puebla. The victorious Battle of Puebla symbolizes the fighting spirit that represents the Mexican society.

While “5 de Mayo” is also celebrated in the US, it has unfortunately been mistaken for the Mexican Independence. The event widely celebrated in the US, is observed as a commemoration of the Mexican-American communities’ ethnic pride.

Monica Sauza, a court certified translator, has been assisting island residents with translations for over a decade.

This story originally appeared in the weekly Cozumel 4 You NEWS – the island’s number one source of positive information about our island!  Be sure and subscribe to the weekly NEWS to find out all the island events!…

Monica Sauza
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