On May 5, when trying to take Puebla, the French invaders were repeatedly rejected by the Mexican Army. The Mexican defense took refuge in the forts of Loreto and Guadalupe; despite the little armament they had, they managed to repel the invaders.
That was the first time that France, with the most powerful army in the world at that time, was defeated after almost half a century of victories, at the same time that the Mexicans scored the first great victory in their history. That is why this event has not only endured in the memory of the people but has been represented on numerous occasions.
Some of the paintings that account for this event are found at the National Museum of History, such as the work painted in 1903 by José Cusachs, or the one entitled "Lucha cuerpo a cuerpo", created in 1862 by Patricio Ramos Ortega and which is currently belongs to the Mexican History Museum Collection.
Battle of Puebla Day
May 5th is a very important date for all Mexicans since it commemorates the Battle of Puebla, in which the Mexican army defeated the French army.
Every year in Mexico, this victory is celebrated with pride and passion, with great celebrations, military and civilian parades in the City of Puebla. The celebration has spread to the United States, where some groups from Puebla take the opportunity to hold parades and concerts in which they celebrate their Mexican origin with typical food and mariachis.
On May 5, 1862, the Army of the East, commanded by the young General Ignacio Zaragoza, defeated the invading troops of Napoleon III. The Battle of Puebla represents one of the most glorious episodes of Mexican history.
Background of the Battle of Puebla
With Benito Juárez as president, in 1861, Mexico declared itself financially in ruins and had enormous debts that the conservatives contracted with European bankers to pay for the Reform War (1857). The debt was 80 million pesos:
69 million for the English
9 million for the Spanish
and 2 million for France.
On July 17, 1861, President Benito Juarez declared a two-year moratorium on the payment of debts to foreign lenders, but the Tripartite Alliance threatened to invade the country if the debts with the three European countries were not paid in full. Juarez responded with an exhortation to reach an amicable settlement.
Spain and England managed to negotiate through diplomatic channels the terms of payment of the debt, but while negotiations were still in progress, a French military contingent under the command of Charles Ferdinand Latrille arrived in Veracruz, and then attacked the city of Puebla, with no less than 6,000 French troops.
The Battle of Puebla
President Juarez knew there was an imminent war and organized to protect Mexico City and ordered the fortification of Puebla. He also created the Army of the East, appointing General Ignacio Zaragoza as its commander. The Mexican army had barely 2,000 men, among which there were a few soldiers and a large number of Indians and warriors of mixed ancestry, willing to give everything for their soil.
Largely outnumbered, unprepared and with little administration, the Mexican combatants headed to the battlefront.
On May 5, 1862, after one of the hardest battles in history, the French finally retreated. The toll was more than 500 casualties on the French lines against only about 100 on the Mexican lines.
This fact became a strong symbol of Mexican resistance and power, representing a symbolic victory against the great empires.