Category Archives: History

The Meaning of Cinco De Mayo

David Simmonds

Today, the 5th of May,  is the day when we drink green beer, off-key Danny Boy and scarf corned-beef and cabbage…no, forget that, I’m getting my important imported celebrations confused.

Cinco de Mayo, which is NOT Mexican Independence Day (September 16) as many believe, marks a battle between the imperialist 6,000 man French army and 5,000 brave Mestizo and Zapotec natives, led by Ignacio Zaragoza in the Batalla de Puebla, just south of Mexico City. Mexico had recently called for a moratorium on payments due to Spain, England and France for loans that had been made to the country. Spain and England agreed to this, but not  the midget Napolean-led France. The wanted Mexico for themselves, in part as an in-your-face message to the United States. So the battle ensued on May 5, 1862, with the rag-tag locals defeating the mighty French. Unfortunately, it was a short-lived victory, as three days later the French prevailed and marched into the capital and took control with the help of the conservative Mexican party.

I have been in Mexico for Cinco de Mayo many times, and have never seen a party commemorating the day; and this in a country that needs little excuse to have a fiesta. It has become more of a U.S. thing, pushed forward by American Hispanics, frat houses and beer manufacturers. I remember reading somewhere that a fraternity at Long Beach State in SoCal started it all about 25 years ago as an excuse to throw a bash…sounds about right to me.

Nonetheless, its a fun day and if it makes people with Mexico roots proud of their ancestral country, that is a good thing. Just know what you’re celebrating. Salud!

Vintage Puerto Vallarta Photos Recall Perfection

old_vallarta_11.jpg by David Simmonds

Puerto Vallarta has always been my favorite town, my One Particular Harbor, as Jimmy Buffett sings about. I first drove there in the summer of 1970 in an old VW bus from San Diego not long after the road was completed into PV from Tepic. I know things change, but Vallarta was an entirely different place then. It was, quite simply, perfect. Since that first trip I have been  just about everywhere in Mexico and other Latin countries, and most of Europe several times. But nothing comes close to the PV I found nearly 40 years ago. I won’t try to describe what it was like on this blog, that would take a book or many hours over beers. But I have found a great online photo album by someone named Chico on the web site PhotoBucket that displays over 100 vintage images from all over Vallarta…the streets, malecon, airport, beaches. Most are black and white and only a few identify the date taken or the specific subject. Most of the dates I did see were early 1960’s, although one was dated 1924, and many more look at least that old. The first thing you notice is no cars, and then you see the hills before the houses started to climb their sides. And the dress of the locals, you don’t see gringos, could be from 100 years ago.

Anyway, take a look at this amazing collection of what the perfect town looked like at one time in history, and understand that progress is a very confusing and damning concept to many of us who remember.

Click here to see the PV photos

Remembering Los San Patricios on St. Paddy’s Day

David Simmonds

St. Patrick’s Day has never been a big favorite of mine, although it does offer a good excuse to devour a greasy slab of corned beef and cabbage chased with an Irish beer as thick as a Dublin (Dooblin?) accent. Speaking of Dublin, rent the DVD of the best film of 2007 “Once“. A great story and music (won an Oscar for best song).

But back to Ireland’s patron saint, Patrick. It was during the Mexican-American War, when General Zachary Taylor marched his troops into Mexico, that some 200 American soldiers, most of Irish descent, deserted ol’ Zach and took the side of the Mexicans. Most of them were not enamored of the U.S. desire to invade another country (sound familiar?) and they felt a special kinship with the Mexicans because of their Catholic faith. They had not been in the U.S. long enough to have developed feelings of patriotism, but they had been Catholic since birth.

 The San Patricios, as they were called, grew in size over time with other Europeans joining up, becoming a force of some 800 men. They fought fierce battles against the Americans in Matamoros, Monterrey, San Luis Potosi and elsewhere, knowing that if captured they would face severe penalties for desertion and treason. And, indeed, this was eventually to be their fate, with as many as 50 of them hanged and many more whipped and jailed following their surrender.

For a good, concise look at the story click here Then try a good Mexican beer with that corned beef today.