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El Cinco de Mayo

El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition

David E. Hayes-Bautista
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    El Cinco de Mayo
    Book Description:

    Why is Cinco de Mayo—a holiday commemorating a Mexican victory over the French at Puebla in 1862—so widely celebrated in California and across the United States, when it is scarcely observed in Mexico? As David E. Hayes-Bautista explains, the holiday is not Mexican at all, but rather an American one, created by Latinos in California during the mid-nineteenth century. Hayes-Bautista shows how the meaning of Cinco de Mayo has shifted over time—it embodied immigrant nostalgia in the 1930s, U.S. patriotism during World War II, Chicano Power in the 1960s and 1970s, and commercial intentions in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, it continues to reflect the aspirations of a community that is engaged, empowered, and expanding.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95179-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    According to one version of Bautista family legend, on May 5, 1862, my great-great-grandfather, Bartolo Bautista, stood on the walls of Puebla and watched the mighty French army march into view.¹ He had been born in San Miguel Atlautla, in the state of Mexico, about seventy kilometers southeast of Mexico City, high on the slopes of Popocatepetl, on the opposite side of the volcano from the city of Puebla.² The French charged, a battle ensued, and amid the smoke and noise, my great-great-grandfather’s unit was isolated, surrounded, and taken prisoner. They were told that they were going to be shot...

  5. ONE Before the American Civil War
    (pp. 11-50)

    Why is the cinco de mayo so widely celebrated in twenty-first-century California, and across the entire United States, when it is scarcely celebrated in Mexico? If the Cinco de Mayo were primarily a Mexican holiday, then the U.S. version ought to be but a pale imitation of the Mexican original, yet it is the other way around. This fact provides the key. Although the holiday celebrates a Mexican victory over the French at Puebla on May 5, 1862, the answer to the question is not to be found in Mexico. It is found instead in California, Nevada, and Oregon during...

  6. TWO The First Battle of Puebla, 1862
    (pp. 51-74)

    California’s entry into the Union as a free state upset the delicate balance between slave and free states, and despite subsequent legal developments favorable to them, from the Fugitive Slave Act to the Dred Scott decision, the slave states were anxious about the permanence of slavery under the U.S. Constitution. Southern states relied heavily on slavery, not only as an economic force but also to maintain a racially segregated society. They interpreted Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 election to mean that their property rights over slaves henceforth would not be protected (see figure 4). Unwilling, therefore, to keep trying to defend slavery...

  7. THREE The American Civil War and the Second Battle of Puebla
    (pp. 75-100)

    Of all the battles of the french intervention in Mexico, the first battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, is commemorated with a holiday today because a network of Latino groups in California—thejuntas patrióticas mejicanas(Mexican patriotic assemblies; see chapter 4)—deliberately created a public memory of it. The French invasion force unintentionally encouraged this construction by launching an attack on Puebla again in 1863, which turned into a two-month siege that riveted Latino attention in faraway California. During the same period, the Union army suffered a major defeat at Chancellorsville, and this conjunction of events influenced the...

  8. FOUR The Juntas Patrióticas Mejicanas Blossom
    (pp. 101-131)

    May 5, 1864: since the first battle of puebla two years earlier, Mexican and French armies had fought about a dozen pitched battles, and Mexican irregulars harassed French and collaborationist Mexicans on an almost daily basis. Despite all that effort, the gods of war seemed to have turned their faces away from the democratically elected government of Mexico, and the French had occupied the major population centers of the country. Dozen of battles lay in the future, as did hundreds, if not thousands, of smaller skirmishes. Emperor Maximilian was steaming across the Atlantic to establish a monarchy in Mexico and...

  9. FIVE One War, Three Fronts
    (pp. 132-176)

    Far from both Washington, DC, and Richmond, Virginia, California sent relatively few soldiers across the country to see action in the eastern states during the U.S. Civil War. While around sixteen thousand men from California volunteered for the Army of the Pacific, fewer than five hundred Californians engaged in combat in the eastern theater of war.¹ Not only was the cost of transporting soldiers from the Pacific to the Atlantic states prohibitive, but their services were needed in a wide area of the West, ranging from Washington to Arizona. Their duty was to ensure that the Confederacy not seduce or...

  10. SIX Shaping and Reshaping the Cinco de Mayo, 1868–2011
    (pp. 177-192)

    On january 31, 1866, the Native California Cavalry, until then stationed in the Arizona Territory, saddled up and began the long ride back to California. The Union had defeated the Confederacy, Napoleon III had set a timetable for withdrawing the French Army from Mexico, and Maximilian’s days were clearly numbered, so the California cavalrymen retraced their path across the desert. After arriving in Los Angeles, Companies A, B, and D were mustered out at the Drum Barracks in Wilmington on March 20, and Company C at the Presidio in San Francisco on April 2.¹ But the Los Angeles to which...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 193-250)
    (pp. 251-262)
    (pp. 263-266)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 267-293)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 294-294)