I will begin this writing by speaking about Puebla, the city where I was born. Located in a valley that is surrounded by four volcanoes: Citlaltépetl, Popocatépetl, Iztaccihuatl, and Malinche. The Neovolcanic Axis gives my state a diversity of climates ranging from dry areas to cold high mountain regions. We are characterized by the variety of dishes, crafts, and history.

162 years ago, Puebla was the birthplace of a great battle. The Battle of Cinco de Mayo, a combat whose objective was the defense and sovereignty of the Mexican people against the French Empire. It all began with the crisis left by the Reform War that occurred in 1858. There were two presidents in charge of Mexico: on the conservative side, Félix María Zuloaga, and on the liberal side, Benito Juárez.

Desired form of governmentRepublic governed by a Mexican citizenMonarchy ruled by a member of European royalty and centralist government
Main objectivesConfiscate the assets of the clergy and communal lands; allow freedom of religion and establish equality of the population before the law.Prohibit the existence of any religion other than Catholicism
ProposalsSecular education and freedom of expression and establishment of the civil registryMaintain the privileges of the church, the Army and the landowners.

Both, without resources to carry out their proposals, compromised the country: the liberals with the United States and Félix María Zuloaga with Europe. Juárez, emerging victorious, was elected president. However, among the proposals was the suspension of the external debt. This fact allowed the conservatives to continue their campaign to subdue the country; they victimized liberal leaders and conspired from Europe.

Thus, a group of Mexican monarchists opposed Juárez and the liberal reform. Then, fleets from Spain, France, and England arrived in Veracruz. Juárez sent Manuel Doblado, governor of Guanajuato and mediator with the troops, in search of a solution, explaining that the suspension of debt payment was temporary due to the crisis from which the country was recovering. Spain and England accepted, but France refused and began its advance. Benito Juárez gave the order to form guerrilla groups to defend the territory.

The French advanced from the west, their first battle being at the Acultzingo peaks (Fig.2) The French troop leader realized the impenetrability of the mountains until he found a mountain pass. General Ignacio Zaragoza decided to defend that highland area by grouping 4000 soldiers and three mountain batteries, many of whom had no experience and were recently recruited as soon as the conflict was known. The French force consisted of 6000 soldiers who advanced, taking the batteries and killing many of the defenders. Ignacio Zaragoza, upon realizing this loss, ordered a retreat and sent them to the area where the resistance was strongest: the state of Puebla.

Fig.2 Acultzingo peaks taken from González Lezama Raúl

It was the morning of May 5, 1862, when Lorencez's forces opened fire on the Mexican cavalry. The French army sent half of its soldiers to the forts of Loreto (fig. 3). Despite their number and experience, these troops were stopped by the Mexican forces. Many of these troops were citizens who had love for their country and armed themselves with courage to face them even without firearms.

The first capture was thanks to the indigenous people from Tetela de Ocampo (115 men) under the command of Colonel Juan Nepomuceno Méndez.

The battalions of the National Guard from Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Morelos covered the access from Veracruz.

Generals Felipe Benicio Berriozábal, Francisco Lamadrid, and Antonio Álvarez commanded the right side of the Guadalupe fort with troops from the State of Mexico and San Luis Potosí.

General Miguel Negrete led the left side, corresponding to the Acueyametepec hill located north of the city of Puebla, whose summit was the Forts of Loreto and Guadalupe.

Within the city, General Ignacio Mejía, together with indigenous populations from Zacapoaxtla, Xochiapulco, and Tetela, faced and were part of the victory in this battle with machetes and bravery.

Fig 2. Forts of Loreto in the Battle of Cinco de Mayo, unknown author.

The French army attacked three times but failed to defeat the Mexican forces, who, despite being outnumbered, emerged victorious from this confrontation, prompting the French retreat.

The notice of the French retreat was sent by telegram to President Benito Juárez and read as follows:

“The weapons of the Supreme Government have been covered in glory: the enemy has made supreme efforts to seize the Cerro de Guadalupe, which it attacked from the east, left, and right for three hours: it was repelled three times in complete dispersal, and at this moment it is formed in battle, a force of more than 4,000 men, facing the Cerro de Guadalupe, out of range. I do not defeat it, as I would like, because the Government knows I do not have sufficient strength for it. I estimate the enemy's loss, which reached the moats of Guadalupe in its attack, at 600 or 700 between dead and wounded; we must have had 400.

Please report this part to Mr. President.— I. Zaragoza”

It's understandable to feel pride and sorrow when recalling events like this, where many lost their lives in pursuit of change for our country. It's especially challenging when proposed reforms aren't fully implemented, which can create a sense that the government isn't fulfilling its duty to the people.

The artworks of painter and soldier Patricio Ramos Ortega, capturing the events of that confrontation between the republican forces and the French army in the hills of Loreto and Guadalupe, provide a window into that historical moment and can help us reflect on its significance and legacy.


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de México A. C., E. C. [@VideosColmex]. (2017, junio 21). De la independencia a la consolidación Republicana (Cap. 4). Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5GI463x0ks

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