Traveling Tuesday: Mexico and Cinco de Mayo
Today is my birthday, and I typically celebrate by going to the local Mexican restaurant where I can pretend the festivities are for me. In reality, the music and decorations are a celebration for Cinco de Mayo (literally Fifth of May), the commemoration of the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla that occurred on May 5, 1862. Sometimes the day is mistakenly referred to as Mexico’s Independence Day which is actually September 16. A relatively minor holiday in Mexico, the day has evolved into a commemoration of Mexican culture and heritage in the U.S.
In 1861, lawyer and member of the Zapotec tribe, Benito Juárez, was elected president of Mexico. At the time, the country was in a state of upheaval and financial ruin after years of internal conflict. With an inability to repay monies owed to European governments, the government defaulted on their debt payments. In response, France, Britain, and Spain sent naval forces demanding repayment. Mexico successfully negotiated with Britain and Spain who withdrew their forces.
Under General Charles Latrille, Comte de Lorencez 6,000 troops set out to Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico. Juárez managed to pull together a force of approximately 2,000 soldiers and sent them to Puebla where they fortified the town and prepared for the assault. The battle commenced at daybreak on May 5, 1862 and lasted into the evening when the French retreated after losing almost five hundred soldiers. Fewer than one hundred Mexicans had been killed.
Although the battle was not a major strategic win in the overall war with the French, the Battle of Puebla represented a great symbolic victory and bolstered the resistance movement. Unfortunately, it would be another five years before the war with France ended. In 1867, after its own Civil War, the United States provided military support and political pressure, and the French finally withdrew.
All’s fair in love and war. Or so they say.
High school and college were a nightmare for Doris Strealer and being an adult isn’t much better. Men won’t date a woman of her height, and they don’t understand her desire to repair car engines rather than work as a nurse or a teacher. When her father’s garage closes, and no one will hire a female mechanic, she joins the Red Cross Motor Corps, finally feeling at home. Until she comes face to face with her past in the form of Van Toppel, the most popular boy in school.
On the brink of a successful career as a surgeon, Van Toppel’s plans crumble when he’s drafted and assigned to an evacuation hospital in England, the last place he expects to run into a former schoolmate. The gangly tomboy who was four years behind him in high school has transformed into a statuesque beauty, but a broken engagement in college leaves him with no desire to risk his heart ever again.
Will the hazards of war make or break a romance between this unlikely couple?
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