~Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Alfonso Bedoya bandit character)*
Mexico: where life is cheap, death is rich, and the buzzards are never unhappy.
~ Edward Abbey (attributed)
Today is Cinco de Mayo, Mexico's great national holiday and the anniversary of the defeat of 6,000 French soldiers by 2,000 Mexicans at the battle of Puebla in 1862. After Mexico had defaulted on its bonds, Britain, France, and Spain made a joint naval demonstration to compel payment. (Embroiled in its own Civil War, the United States was too preoccupied to object.) When negotiations opened, the British and Spanish departed, but France decided to seize on the opportunity to conquer the country and impose Napoleon III's brother-in-law, Maximilian, as emperor.
|Édouard Manet's The Execution of the Emperor Maximilian (1867) |
is one of five versions of his representation
of the execution of the Mexican monarch
Despite the Mexican victory at Puebla, the French eventually prevailed, but by 1867, Maximilian had been overthrown and executed, his demise the subject of a memorable painting (1867-68) by Eduard Manet now in the National Gallery, London.** Some decades later, ruthless Mexican president cum dictator Porfirio Diaz (1830-1915) noted,
"Poor Mexico, so far from God - and so near to the United States."
* N.B. John Huston's classic movie, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), starred Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt in a stark tale of greed in the southwestern desert. It won three Academy Awards, and the phrase quoted here has become something of a cult incantation, though most often in the form,
"We ain't got no stinkin' badges..."
** Maximilian's body was later repatriated to Austria, and his sarcophagus can be seen today in the Kapuzinergruft in downtown Vienna, along with those of many other famous Hapsburg monarchs.
Here's a brief History Channel explanation of the holiday:
The text above is adapted from Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email - leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.