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May 4, 2010 > Viva Mexico! Viva Hayward!

Viva Mexico! Viva Hayward!

By Simon Wong
Photos By Simon Wong

La Alianza de Hayward, a non-profit providing education scholarships and promoting Mexican culture and the Spanish-language, presented the annual Cinco De Mayo Celebration at City Hall Plaza, Hayward, on Saturday, May 1.

This year, fine weather blessed the festivities. In 2009, the participants sheltered in the parking structure opposite City Hall to continue their celebrations when the heavens opened.

"This event takes about four months to organize. We must take out insurance then obtain permits. Whilst arranging the latter, we contact the dance groups, musicians, equestrian performers and invite applications for booths," explained Councilman Francisco Zermeno and spokesman for La Alianza de Hayward. "The event started in a church. This is our fifteenth year in Downtown Hayward, a popular location.

"The rent from pitches and advertising sales in our booklet raises enough for this event to remain free for our visitors and to pay a small amount to the dance groups. La Alianza de Hayward is fortunate to receive sponsorship from organizations, such as Kaiser Permanete and PG&E, towards scholarships which will also benefit from the profits from the sale of T-shirts, beer and soda, today.

"This event is successful because it's family-oriented. Although we sell beer, there is never unruly behavior. Children attend with their parents. We highlight the mariachi and ballet folklorico youth groups. This is what we're about," stated Zermeno.

Cinco de Mayo, Spanish for "Fifth of May," is a regional holiday in Mexico, observed primarily in the state of Puebla with limited recognition in the rest of the country. It commemorates Mexico's defeat of France on May 5, 1862 at the Battle of Puebla under General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin's leadership. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in the United States and elsewhere around the world as a mark of Mexican heritage and pride. It is not Mexico's Independence Day which falls on September 16.

In July 1861, Mexican President Benito Juarez suspended Mexico's interest payments to its creditors. This sparked the Maximilian Affair, or Franco-Mexican War. Britain France and Spain, Mexico's main creditors, signed the Treaty of London in October 1861 to force resumption of payments using gunboat diplomacy.

British, French and Spanish fleets arrived in Veracruz in January 1862. The British and Spanish withdrew their forces in April 1862 when they realised France's true ambition was to conquer Mexico.

Despite the initial success of the French invasion, Mexican forces defeated the French army on May 5, 1862 (now the Cinco de Mayo commemoration). This was a temporary setback for the French who took the capital, Mexico City, in June 1863. The French installed His Imperial and Royal Highness Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph, Prince Imperial and Archduke of Austria, Prince Royal of Hungary and Bohemia, as Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico in April 1864.

Many historians believe the French created the monarchy whilst the United States was preoccupied with the Civil War (1861-65) and unable to otherwise intervene according to the Monroe Doctrine. Enacted in Dec 1823, the doctrine regarded European governments' attempts to colonize or interfere with states in the Americas as acts of aggression warranting US intervention. US Congress formally expressed its opposition to the establishment of the Mexican monarchy six days before Maximilian accepted the crown.

In February 1866, the US demanded the withdrawal of French forces which began at the end of May 1866. Forces loyal to President Benito Juarez executed Maximilian I on June 19, 1867. The deployment of US troops along the Rio Grande and the threat of invasion strengthened Juarez's position. Mexico City surrendered the day after Maximilian I was executed and the republic was restored under Juarez, thus, ending France's occupation of Mexico.

Cinco de Mayo is significant for two reasons. First, the French army, better equipped and outnumbering the Mexican forces by two-to-one, suffered its first defeat in 50 years. Second, the Battle of Puebla is the last time that an army from another continent invaded the Americas.

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