||"dawnbreak in the west"|
Saturday, May 06, 2017
Cinq de mai
My workplace had a 5 May party. The free tacos and tamales came with a leaflet on the history of the holiday. As these things usually go, I got suspicious, but this time I ended up siding with the side they wanted me to side with.
The Mexican President Juárez, whom the leaflet called a "liberal", had inherited large debts to various Europeans. But he wasn't quite a "liberal" like Hugo Chavez was "liberal" with the fisc; he was more opposed to the Church and the old Spanish aristocracy, hardly bastions of laissez-faire capitalism. Juárez's cashflow problem was war-debt. There was that Mexican-American War, and more recently a civil war called Guerra de Reforma. Two creditors, UK and Spain, were willing to write off some of that debt. The third, Napoleon III of France, was not so willing. The Intercept gets this backstory pretty well right.
To get some biases out of the way, I don't have much sympathy for the Europeans. Their lend-lease policy during the Mexican-American War was a political game against the young US, which they lost when Mexico lost. We might excuse their help to Mexico during the Guerra de Reforma as in keeping with a general nineteenth-century west-European bias against chaos: see also, Crimea.
More to the point, those two also had the grace to take the loss. Which brings us to our primary villain, Napoleon, a manipulative sociopath who didn't care about chaos. Maurice Joly had him dead to rights. As of 1862 France was still holding that 1825 indemnity over Haiti (as adjusted in 1838); here they could plunder Mexico as well. Until the Mexicans set them straight. (Although the specific 5 May dustup at Puebla was a "moral victory" sideshow at most; the real war was resolved later and elsewhere.)
The moral to le cinq de mai, if there is one, is that when you spend money on stupid military adventures in someone else's country, sometimes you lose and then you have to eat it.
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