By Steve Walker
With Fiesta 2016 now in the history books after a successful 10 day run that finished last Sunday, we can now look to our next Hispanic cultural celebration of Cinco de Mayo just four days from now. Just when you thought the party was over, we gear up for more celebrating.
When you live in San Antonio there is the natural expectation we will continue to celebrate our rich Hispanic culture all the time. We are famous for our celebrations with mariachis, parades, Mexican cuisine all the time, and any time. Viva San Antonio!
The question is “Why Not?” The good news is you don’t have to be Hispanic to appreciate the Hispanic culture. In fact those of us who are not of Hispanic ancestry get the privilege to experience it by assimilation just living here in Bexar County, the home of the Alamo and the Missions.
Where else but San Antonio can you get the best Mexican food like puffy tacos, tortillas, tortas and enchiladas? I remember when I spent a year in Germany in the Army in 1971-72 I had no access to Mexican food whatsoever. Upon arriving home in the Alamo City, for weeks I frequented so many Mexican restaurants I gained weight and was forced to go to the gym to work off all the tacos!!
For many new to the 7th largest city in the United States, and particularly not of Hispanic origin, Cinco de Mayo is an exciting experience. In Texas and other states we commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War; celebration of Mexican heritage and pride; commemorate the Mexican army's victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla, May 5th, 1862.
For you history buffs from somewhere else who may not been privileged to study Texas History it became a cause of celebration. Cinco de Mayo has its roots in the French occupation of Mexico which took place in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, Mexican Civil War of 1858 and the 1860 reform Wars.
These wars left the Mexican Treasury nearly bankrupt. On July 17th, 1861, Mexican President Benito Juarez issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for two years.
Not happy about that France, Britain and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew. Unfortunately France at the time ruled by Napoleon III decided to use the opportunity to establish a Latin empire in Mexico that would favor French interests, the Second Mexican Empire.
Late in 1861, a well-armed French fleet stormed Veracruz, landing a large French force and driving President Juárez and his government into temporary retreat.
However the Mexican Army of 4,500 took on the French Army of 8,000 strong and as we say in Texas, “put the whoop” on them, crushing the then considered "premier army in the world." The rest is history.
Don’t forget the 19th Annual Cinco de Mayo events that will happen in the downtown Market Square with sounds and smells of authentic Mexican food, Mariachi music on the plaza and Forklorico dancers with their colorful dresses.
Market Square is a family friendly venue with over 100 shops of Mexican art and crafts, as well as two of San Antonio’s most popular restaurants Mi Tierra and La Margarita.
As always, what I write is “Just a Thought.”
Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Justice of the Peace and Journalist.