May 2, 1996
CINCO DE MAYO
by Nawana Britenriker
This Sunday, Mexicans and others celebrate "Cinco de Mayo," the 5th
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
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
the Third installed the Archduke Maximilian of Austria as Emperor of
Maximilian issued coins featuring designs and legends similar to
those of European monarchs. Some coins bare 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 celebrate on "Cinco de
This has been "Money Talks." Today's program was written by Nawana
Britenriker and underwritten by Heritage Rare Coin Galleries, the world's
largest rare coin firm. "Money Talks" is a copyrighted production of the
American Numismatic Association, 818 N. Cascade Avenue, Colorado Springs,