Wednesday, 4 May 2011


“If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism, we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism.” - Vladimir Lenin

Today is Cinco de Mayo, which is a regional Mexican holiday observed in the state of Puebla and its capital city of Puebla. However, the sizeable population of expatriate Mexicans in several large cities of the USA, observe this holiday with so much fervour and merry-making, that many Americans regard the 5th of May as an important Mexican holiday, or even the Mexican Independence Day (which is actually on September 16).

Cinco de Mayo marks the victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla. Even though the Mexican army was eventually defeated, the “Batalla de Puebla” came to represent a symbol of Mexican unity and patriotism. With this battle, Mexicans demonstrated to the world that Mexico and all of Latin America were willing to defend themselves against any foreign intervention. This was especially true in those countries where imperialists bent on world conquest had established themselves and were ruling the countries for their own benefit and interest, while the indigenous people suffered.

The French occupation of Mexico developed in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. With this war, Mexico entered a period of national crisis during the 1850’s. Years of not only fighting the Americans but also a Civil War, had left Mexico devastated and bankrupt. On July 17, 1861, President Benito Juarez issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for a brief period of two years, with the promise that after this period, payments would resume.

The English, Spanish and French refused to allow president Juarez to do this, and instead decided to invade Mexico and get payments by whatever means necessary. The Spanish and English eventually withdrew, but the French refused to leave. Their intention was to create an Empire in Mexico under Napoleon III. Some have argued that the true French occupation was a response to growing American power and to the Monroe Doctrine (America for the Americans). Napoleon III believed that if the USA was allowed to prosper indiscriminately, it would eventually become a world power and usurp the domination of the world by Britain, Spain, France and Germany.

In 1862, the French army began its advance. Under General Ignacio Zaragoza, 5,000 ill-equipped Mestizo and Zapotec Indians defeated the French army in what came to be known as the “Batalla de Puebla” on the fifth of May. In the USA, the “Batalla de Puebla” came to be known as simply “Cinco de Mayo”. Mexican Independence was declared on September 16, 1810, the day which is still observed throughout in Mexico as National Day.

Cinco de Mayo has become more of Chicano holiday than a Mexican one. The day is celebrated on a much larger scale in the USA than it is in Mexico. People of Mexican descent in the United States celebrate this significant day by having parades, mariachi music, folkloric dancing and other types of festivities. In any case, the day is worth celebrating as a commemoration of indigenous people’s need for self-rule and freedom from imperialistic powers.

imperialism |imˈpi(ə)rēəˌlizəm| noun
A policy of extending a country’s power and influence through diplomacy or military force: The struggle against French imperialism in 19th century Mexico. Figurative: French ministers protested at U.S. cultural imperialism.
• chiefly historical rule by an emperor.
imperialist |-ˌpi(ə) ˈrēəlist| noun
imperialistic |-ˌpi(ə)rēəˈlistik| adjective
imperialistically adverb
ORIGIN late Middle English: Via Old French from Latin imperialis, from imperium ‘command, authority, empire’; related to imperare ‘to command.’

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