Transcript No. 1718
May 5, 1999
CINCO DE MAYO
by Nawana Britenriker
Today, Mexicans and others celebrate "Cinco de Mayo," the Fifth of May.
Many believe Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence Day. But though it's
celebrated in much the same way as we Americans celebrate our Fourth of
July-the day actually commemorates a victory against French forces.
In 1861-while the United States was occupied with its own Civil
War-European governments, disgusted with Mexico's civil struggles and
repeated defaults on debt, signed an agreement dividing Mexico among the
Spanish, British and French. France invaded Mexico in 1862, and Napoleon
III installed the Archduke Maximilian of Austria as Emperor of Mexico.
Maximilian issued coins featuring designs and legends similar to those
of European monarchs. Some coins have a striking resemblance to Napoleon
III's own French coins.
Despite Maximilian's efforts to institute agrarian reforms and
modernize education, Mexicans despised his regime. His coins, the basis
for the nation's entire economy, were unpopular and suspect because of
their European origins. It was one of the major reasons why the Mexican
people rose up against him.
The Liberal Reform movement, led by Benito Juarez, attracted a large
following of peasants, artisans, intellectuals and radical clerics.
Although Juarez appointed regular army officers to lead the peasants, he
also recruited a few thousand Civil War veterans from the United States.
The first major victory for Juarez's troops was on the 5th of May in
1862. But it wasn't until five years later that the Mexican people finally
triumphed. Maximilian surrendered, was tried by a military court and shot
by a firing squad. It's this triumph that Mexicans are celebrating today
on "Cinco de Mayo."
This has been "Money Talks." Today's program was written by Nawana
Britenriker. Take a tour of ANA's virtual Money Museum on the web at
www.money.org. "Money Talks" is a copyrighted production of the American
Numismatic Association, 818 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80903,