May 5, 2020by Reverend Dan on May 5, 2020
“And who is my neighbor?”
Cinco de Mayo! Contrary to the belief of many, Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day. It’s not Mexico’s “July 4th”. Here, in the words of the late Paul Harvey . . . is the rest of the story.
Back in 1861, Benito Juarez was elected President of Mexico. He inherited a country in financial ruins after years of internal strife, and the new president was forced to default on debts owed to European countries. That made Britain, Spain and France mad, so they sent forces to Mexico to collect on the loans. Britain and Spain negotiated a deal with Mexico and withdrew their forces. France, however, under the reign of Napoleon III, decided that they would take their repayment by force. They saw an opportunity to expand their empire by taking control of some Mexican land. They landed a large army at Veracruz late in the year and drove the Mexican president and government into hiding.
With 6,000 men ready to go, the French commander believed success would come quickly and easily. He decided to attack a small town in east-central Mexico named Puebla de Los Angeles. At his new headquarters in the north, Juarez got wind of the impending attack and rounded up a rag-tag army of 2,000 men and sent them to Puebla. Vastly outnumbered and poorly supplied, the army nonetheless prepared the town for the attack. On May 5, 1862, the French army, supported by heavy artillery, attacked the town of Puebla. The battle lasted from daybreak into the evening, and when the French finally retreated, they had lost 500 men while the Mexican army lost less than 100.
While the battle was not a major strategic win, it did represent a great symbolic victory for Mexico. As a result, many of the citizens got behind the new government and joined in the fight. In 1867 France finally withdrew its forces. (What took so long was that help came from the United States in that year because they were able to send military support once the American Civil War ended.)
Today, Cinco de Mayo is primarily observed in the state of Puebla, although celebrations do take part in other parts of the country. There are parades, recreations of the battle, and street celebrations. It is not a national holiday, however, so banks and other federal entities remain open. Cinco de Mayo is more widely celebrated across America than it is in Mexico. In this country it has become a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage.
All too often, we make assumptions and stereotype an entire race of people. We never take the time to know them or learn about them. And when we don’t, we find it hard to see them as our neighbor. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus reminds us that everyone is our neighbor and we need to love everyone with the same grace and mercy God shows us.
Take the time to get to know your neighbors. Next door . . . next state . . . next country. (Just remember to do so at a distance of six feet!)
“Father, Thank you for reminding us that no matter where we live, everyone is our neighbor. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”