Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Civil War in a Larger International Historical Context - Cinco de Mayo edition


Last May 3 I published a post called The Civil War in a Larger International Historical Context which discussed how in the 150th anniversary of the Civil War there were similar conflicts in Germany, Italy, and Japan which would have many repercussions for the US and the world to this day.  It has become one of my most read posts.

This May 2 I realize that there was another conflict south of the US border which also had reverberations for many years to come that is having it's 150th anniversary this year.  The conflict began when Mexican President Benito Juarez refused to make debt payments to European nations in the wake of the Mexican American war of 1846-1848.  As a response Emperor Napoleon III of France (Nephew of the first Napoleon husband of Josephine, who came to power in the revolutions of 1848) sent a military force of 8,000 to Veracruz in 1862 to establish an empire in Latin America while the US was busy with the Civil War.  The French army the marched on the state of Puebla a Mexican Army was able to repel them on May 5.  This is what Mexicans celebrate on Cinco de Mayo which is mistakenly thought of as their 4th of July here.


Napoleon III did not give up his dream of empire however and invaded again in 1864 with a force of 30,000, drove Juarez from power and installed his cousin as Maximilian I Emperor of Mexico.  This empire did not last as the US Civil War ended the next year and the US aided Juarez in defeating the French army.  President Andrew Johnson (who succeeded Abraham Lincoln thanks to John Wilkes Booth) would not let this violation of the Monroe Doctrine stand and supported Juarez with weapons.  Napoleon III could not help because of the uprisings in Germany and Italy.  Maximilian I was executed in 1867.  By 1870 Napoleon III and President Johnson would be out of office and France would never have a monarch again.  A period of instability and dictatorship did follow in Mexico which also lead to a period of immigration to the US in the next century,

I considered adding this story to the Civil War post but thought there was enough for it's own post as I, like many other Americans overlooked cultural issues beyond a narrow view.  I wrote the first post to expand viewpoints but realized I needed to expand myself.  Hopefully Cinco de Mayo can be recognized as more than an opportunity to sell tequila and cerveza.

There are efforts in the State of Arizona which has passed a law banning ethnic studies.  The Tucson school district was forced to cancel it's acclaimed Mexican-American ethnic studies program.  Here is a discussion of the controversy on Democracy Now! followed by a follow up on a teacher being fired who refused to follow the policy.
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