The citizens of United States of America may not be aware of how the history of Mexico and the United States has had a symbiotic relationship. Cinco de Mayo is one of the most important celebrations for Mexico. It is not their Independence Day. But, for them that day represents their valiant fight to maintain their independence from foreign invasion. On the morning of May 5, 1862, in the town of Puebla 100 miles east of Mexico City, a Mexican army of 4,000 brave men smashed 8,000 French, well trained soldiers, with the most modern equipment of the day, under the command of Napoleon III. A remarkable feat not only because the Mexicans were armed only with machetes, sticks, stampeding cattle and were outnumbered by 2 to 1, but the French Army had not been defeated in over 50 years.
Prior to the Battle of Puebla, Britain, Spain and France seized the port of Vera Cruz for the purpose of negotiating their loans that were not being paid by President Benito Juarez. Mexico had been financially drained by 2 wars, the Mexican-American War and the Reform Laws War. Britain and Spain quickly settled their business and left, but Napoleon had other ideas. He had brought along Maximilian with the intentions of setting him up as the puppet ruler of Napoleon’s new empire in Mexico.
Napoleon was taking advantage of the fact that Mexico’s treasury was pitifully low and that Mexico’s neighbor to the north, the United States, was occupied with the Civil War. Napoleon sided with the Confederate Army and was supplying them with money and guns. In the meantime, President Benito Juarez was supporting and was being supported by the Union Forces. Abraham Lincoln was a strong supporter of Juarez as early as 1857. On the eve of the Reform Laws War in 1858, Lincoln sent President Juarez a message, in support of the war against the Conservatives, “for the liberty of…your government and its people.”
Even though, Lincoln had his hands full with the Civil War, he had Union General Sheridan supply the Mexican Army with over 30,000 muskets. This alliance between Lincoln and Juarez also helped heal some of the bitterness caused by the Mexican-American War. Because of the slaughter at Puebla it took Napoleon a year before he was ready to invade Mexico City. During that year Napoleon was unable to continue providing supplies to the Confederates. The Civil War was over within 14 months of his defeat at Puebla. It could be speculated that because of the outcome of that battle, the Union Forces were able to easily subdue the South and win the war. If the Confederates had a stronger army the war may have dragged on for a much longer period time with many more casualties, destruction and even perhaps, the Confederates winning the Civil War. Think of how that could have affected the history of the United States. Viva Mexico!