All in all, it’s pretty much a day like any other. Indeed, it’s not even a federal holiday, so in most of the country places like banks and stores remain open, unless they are closed because of the pandemic. But in the state where it occurred, folks still remember the battle—however brief it was– that took place some 158 years ago today.
Like much of what happens in the world, it initially at least had to do with money, beginning when the newly elected president of Mexico, facing national financial ruin, was forced to default on debt payments to foreign governments. In response, three European powers sent their naval forces to demand repayment, with two of them, Britain and Spain, quickly able to negotiate and withdraw.
But France, looking for a new empire, decided to use the opportunity to try to seize power as well. Sending a well-trained army of 6,000 troops that landed at Veracruz, the French forced the Mexican president to flee to a new headquarters in the north.
In turn, the Mexican leader rounded up all the help he could find, assembling a rather rag-tag and poorly equipped army only one-third the size of the invading force. Fortunately, however—if you’ll forgive my native brag—they were led by a Texas-born general named Ignacio Zaragoza.
Incredibly enough, then, when the French arrived to attack the small town of Puebla de Los Angeles where the Mexicans were taking their stand, the battle lasted only from daybreak to early evening. But when it was all over, almost 500 French soldiers had been lost compared to fewer than 100 Mexicans.
To be certain, the fight against the French in Mexico lasted five more years and most historians will tell you that the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, was not at all a major strategic win. But Zaragoza’s success there was nonetheless the symbolic victory that bolstered Mexican resistance until the French were eventually driven out completely. And often times, it’s the small battles in our lives that can do the same.
The questions we should ask therefore are simple: will we allow our circumstances, whatever they may be, to overwhelm us? Will we give in to the kind of pessimism that spreads like a pandemic if we don’t stop it? And will we go on fighting when our cause is just, even if the odds are three to one against us? After all, it was the trumpet section of the marching band that brought down the walls of Jericho, and a young shepherd boy who pulled off the most unlikely of all victories against a far larger warrior. It’s no wonder thus that Jesus said that we only need to have faith like a grain of mustard seed to move a mountain (Matthew 17.20).
Of course, Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May, has now become a cultural celebration of all things Mexican. And ironically, it’s observed far more in the United States than in the country where the battle of that day actually took place. However you may celebrate it, though, perhaps today is a time to give thanks for the small triumphs in life as well as the huge ones, and for the grace of God which really can move the mountains in our lives.
Just in queso you’ve forgotten that.