Friday, May 05, 2006

Apropos of the Cinco de Mayo: Sara Yorke Stevenson on General Achille Bazaine

No, the Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day. It is the commemoration of the Mexican victory against France in the first Battle of Puebla, May 5, 1862. The second battle of Puebla, a year later, was won by the French Imperial Forces, which then went on to occupy Mexico City and install Maximilian von Habsburg on the Mexican throne. Curiously, most Americans have no idea that France invaded our sister republic. It's quite a story (and one with many parallels to the current U.S. imbroglio in Iraq). I've been marinating my imagination in it for the past few years, as I am writing a novel set in Mexico City during the period. Apropos of the Cinco de Mayo, a little note here about General Achille Bazaine, who is turning into one of my favorite characters. Perhaps you will see why when you read this excerpt from With Maximilian in Mexico, a memoir by Sara Yorke Stevenson, an American who was resident in Mexico City at the time. She writes:
He was a plain-looking man, short and thick-set, whose plebian features one might search in vain for a spark of genius or or a ray of imagination; and yet under the commonplace exterior dwelt a kindly spirit, an intelligence of no mean order, and, despite a certain coarseness of thought and expression too common among Frenchmen, a soul upon which the romance of life had impressed its mark in lines of fire.

For more on Cinco de Mayo, check out The Happy Booker's TGIF Cinco de Mayo Edition.