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

written by: Rebecca Scudder • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 9/11/2012

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,

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    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,

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    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.

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    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

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    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