snapshots of mexico, literal and figurative

Live and Let Die
January 23, 2009, 9:00 am
Filed under: Photo, Update | Tags:

Every Mexican city worth its wait in corn, beans, and chile peppers has witnessed a historic battle, usually a major point of local pride. Puebla had Cinco de Mayo, Zacatecas had the Toma, Guanajuato had the Alhóndiga, Queretaro had the end of Maximilian’s reign, Mexico City had… well, it’s probably had more armies come through than Belgium did during WWII. Such is the history of a country founded on conquest, freed through rebellion, re-conquered and re-freed numerous times for the next hundred years, and eventually overthrown and re-established (through, what else, a decade of battles) less than a century ago. A run down of a few of the ones I’m most familiar with:

Puebla, French invasion of Mexico, 1862. Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day (that would be September 16th). Instead, it celebrates the victory of Mexican forces over the French Army in the defense of the city of Puebla, at that time Mexico’s second city. The victory possibly had more to do with severe diarrhea that had handicapped the French than anything else. What’s more, the French still managed to conquer Mexico within a year. Even so, it’s considered a significant victory in Mexican history.

Guanajuato, Independence Movement, 1810. After Father Hidalgo—Mexico’s George Washington—gave the Shout of Independence on the morning of September 16th in the town of Dolores, he led his rag tag army towards the city of Guanajuato. There, he and his forces laid siege to the Spaniards who had holed up in a large granary. It wasn’t until “El Pípila”, a local miner, tied a stone shield to his back and lit the doors on fire that the Mexican forces were able to overwhelm the Spaniards. Unfortunately, the Spaniards eventually managed to retake the city, and from the corners of the very same granary hung the heads of Hidalgo and three other prominent rebels.

Zacatecas, Mexican Revolution, 1914. Zacatecas, rich with silver, was one of the primary sources of wealth for the Mexican government. As such, the revolutionaries knew its fall would be a major blow for their cause. A large federal force guarded the city, and artillery had been set up on the surrounding hills, making its capture a daunting task. However, thanks to Pancho Villa and his División del Norte, the revolutionaries were victorious, and in cutting off much of the government’s income they broke the back of the ruling regime.

Chapultepec (Mexico City), US invasion of Mexico, 1847. Many people forget about this one in the States, which is interesting as California, New Mexico, and a lot of other territory would otherwise still be Mexican. The culmination of the battle involved the cadets of the Military Academy on Chapultepec Hill desperately fighting the American army before patriotically/idiotically (you choose) wrapping themselves in the Mexican Flag and jumping off a cliff to avoid capture. The Niños Héroes (as the 6 teenage cadets are now known) are remembered in street names and memorials in practically every city in Mexico. 

As for my life in Mexico, all’s well. I spent last week in the northern city of Zacatecas, mostly just hanging out with my friend Zach but also getting some productive interviews done for my project. Additionally, I’ve begun to work on a second part of my project looking at insurance enrollment in a more quantitative fashion that hopefully I’ll be able to write a paper on (or ideally use as my MPH culminating experience).  We’ll see how things go between now and June.

Obama’s inauguration was well celebrated by the ex-pat community here in DF, and several friends ended up being interviewed by multiple TV and print media journalists while watching the ceremony at the US Embassy library. Most exciting part of the night: finding a place that serves excellent bratwurst in Condesa. Hopefully I’ll have more fun stuff to tell you about soon, but until I get my next bank deposit from Fulbright I won’t be doing much.

Fun Mexican Word: Teleférico – Cable car. Not the San Francisco ding ding streetcar type, the gondola-like, dangle from the cable as you go up the side of a mountain type. As far as I know, there are two in Mexico, one in Zacatecas and one in Taxco. My excitement level (and by that I mean “fear of plunging to my death”) in riding Zacatecas’s teleférico was significantly diminished when I found out it was designed and built by a Swiss firm, not a Mexican company.


F-you, President James K. Polk!

Memorial to the Niños Héroes. One could think of this white marble memorial in Chapultepec Park as a giant middle finger towards the US in response for its 1847 invasion. Of course, being the understanding, live-and-let-live country we are, we decided to return the favor and build our embassy across from the Monument of Independence to remind them who’s in charge…

Something I miss (aside from all of you, of course): Having a bed I can fit on without lying down diagonal. I guess it’s probably not something most other people would miss here…

Something I like about DF: The availability of tortillas españolas, basically glorified omelets that make a perfect small meal while working in a café.




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