The Grog Dog, no fan of manufactured drinking holidays and their excessively consumed themed cocktails, will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo, but not for the reasons you may think, and not with the cocktail that’s most popular today.

Image credit: Some random Pinterest poster

Image credit: Some random Pinterest poster with egregious taste

According to Wikipedia, the significance of May 5 to the Mexican people was their defeat of French Emperor Napoleon III‘s army at the Battle of Puebla, where a force of 4,000 Mexicans managed to hold off a 8,000-strong army that had superior firepower and equipment. The Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and the Reform War (1858–61) having nearly bankrupted the country, Mexican President Benito Juarez in 1861 suspended all foreign debt payments for two years. Britain and Spain negotiated settlements with Mexico, but France, at the time ruled by Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (nephew of “the” Napoleon Bonaparte) decided to take advantage of the Mexican plight and establish the Second Mexican Empire south of the US border. Although defeated at Puebla on May 5, 1862, the French emperor a year later sent 30,000 troops to Mexico, and with the support of Mexican conservatives, succeeded in installing Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria as Maximilian I, the first (and only) emperor of Mexico.

The Paloma

The Paloma

The Mexican victory the the Battle of Puebla denied Napoleon III a crucial opportunity to establish a base in Mexico at a turning point in the American Civil War. Defeating Juarez’s troops by early 1862 would have allowed the French to turn their resources to attacking the Union blockade of southern ports and providing military support to the Confederate cause. French cotton mills were desperate for raw material by 1862, and industrialists and workers supported France’s intervention in the war to secure a quick Southern victory and end the “famine du coton” (cotton famine). But the year-long delay in France’s ultimate victory in Mexico meant Napoleon III would have had to fight a two-front war (against Mexico and the US) throughout 1862-64, with murky prospects for winning either conflict. The Union victory in the Battle of New Orleans in 1862 and later diplomatic negotiations with US officials finally persuaded the French emperor that the Confederate cause was truly lost.

Napoleon III chose to continue the fight against Juarez in Mexico, hoping that once Maximilian I was seated on the throne, he could use French and Mexican Imperial troops to assist the Confederacy in driving the Union Army out of the South (which could then get back to its own cotton-picking business). As the Civil War was ending, however, the US government tacitly, then actively, supported Juarez’s republican government through arms sales, official declarations, and open threats of war against France. In 1866, Napoleon III gave up his imperial ambitions in the Americas and withdrew French troops from Mexico. Maximilian I’s Imperial Army subsequently suffered huge defeats that led to the capture and execution of the French puppet ruler on June 19, 1867 by Mexican troops. A victorious Juarez returned to power and maintained his government through an attempted revolution in 1871. He died in July 1872.

Image credit: sodahead.com

Image credit: sodahead.com

I daresay most Cinco de Mayo partiers have no idea that the holiday they celebrate with cheap neon Margaritas and south-of-the-border stereotypes was so important to US history as well as Mexican independence. Much as there is reason to commemorate the military victory, however, there’s always more reason to promote peace. For that, I recommend the Paloma (“dove”): Pour 2 parts tequila blanco and 1 part fresh lime juice over ice in a rocks glass. Add a small pinch of salt. Stir to chill and combine. Top with grapefruit soda; stir lightly.

With a couple of these, even the most bitter enemies can learn to get along. Salud!