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Mexican History of Independence, Cinco de Mayo, and Martial Vocabulary in Spanish

By Rebecca Scudder

Cinco de Mayo is thought by many to be the Mexican day of Independence. However, Mexico actually celebrates Independence on September 16. This year is the 199th anniversary of its Independence in the calendar of Mexico. Learn some history and the words relating to war, peace, revolution and heroes,

Mexican Independence day - September 16th

A lot of people believe that the 5th of May is the day of the Mexican Independence. The Independence of Mexico really began September 16th, 1810, 50 some years earlier.

Shortly before midnight on September 15th, Father Hidalgo, a revolutionary priest who had rebelled against the Spanish government, rang the bells to call his parishioners to the church. He gave a stirring speech about freedom from the oppression of the Spanish empire, and exhorted them to revolt.

It is commemorated yearly by the Mexican President and the Mexican people. Just prior to midnight, on the 15th, the Mexican President rings the bells in the National palace. On the 16th, there is a military parade in Mexico City, and parades in towns and cities throughout Mexico. The President also gives a speech of remembrance on September 16th, on the themes of Father Hidalgo's original sermon - the "Grito de Dolores." Often some 500,000 people come to the Plaza to hear him.

This is the 199th anniversary of the day Mexican indepenence began. Next year, on the bicentennial, Mexico is planning a grand celebratation all through Mexico,

History of Cinco de Mayo

Many, mistakenly, think, that the 5th of May is the day of the Mexican Independence. This is however not the case. The Independence of Mexico was declared on 16th September 1810.

The bank holiday of 5th of May is celebrated in memory of the victory of a rather ramshackle Mexican army over nearly twice as strong and much better armed French troops in the battle of Puebla in 1862, 52 years later. The background is as follows:

During the 1850s, Mexico suffered a serious economic crisis which lead to the accumulation of huge foreign loans and debts. To obtain some relief and try to get the crisis under control, President Benito Juarez issued a moratoruim on 17th July 1861, declaring that all foreign debts would be suspended for two years and payment would resume thereafter.

The answer to that measure from Spain, Great Britain and France was to invade the country and practically raid her in order to obtain payment by whatever means they could. Whereas Spain and the UK quickly settled, the French refused to leave. Under Napoleon III, they fully intended to annex Mexcio and establish an emperor in the person of the Habsburg Prince Maximillian, whom they had already brought along for the purpose.

Brave Mexicans, mostly Chicanos, Mestizos and Zapotec Indians under General Ignacio Zaragoza, badly armed and vastly outnumbered by the well trained French Army, nevertheless managed to shatter and defeat the French.

Since then, 5th of May is celebrated in Mexico in honour of the spirit of independence and bravery of the Mexican people.

Revolutionary Vocabulary

Grito de Dolores - Cry from Dolores

Cinco de Mayo - Fifth of May

La batalla - battle

La legion de honor - legion

Francia - France

Inglaterra - Great Britain

Espana - Spain

Artilleria (f) - artillery

Los tiros - shots

El fuego - fire

Los caballos - horses

El rifle - rifle

La escopeta - shotgun

La pistola - gun

La guerra - war

La paz - peace

La revolucion - revolution

Las tropas - troops

El heroe - hero

La bandera - flag

Los desperados - roaming troops, mercenaries

More Martial Vocabulary

La independencia - independence

Los indios - Indians

El emperador - emperor

La muerte - death

invalido - disabled

La herida - wound

La espada - sabre

El orgullo - pride

El bravado - bravery

El plan de batalla - battle plan

El teniente - lieutenant

El caudillo - leader

Las fuerzas armadas - army

El soldado - soldier

El peon - infantry

Las armas - weapons

El traidor - traitor

La invasion - invasion

El golpe de estado - coup d'etat

derrotar - to defeat

La conspiracion - conspiracy

La pena de muerte - death penalty

El monumento - monument

La tumba - grave

La estatua - statue

La armada - fleet

El casco - helmet

El chaleco contraballas - bulletproof vest

Las ballas - bullets

La municion - amunition

El attentado - attack

La victoria - victory