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General Ignacio Zaragoza: Cinco de Mayo Hero


Cinco de Mayo Hero

When “Cinco de Mayo” is mentioned in Mexico, one of the most symbolic battles in the Mexican collective unconscious immediately comes to mind: the Battle of Puebla. General Ignacio Zaragoza, with only a small army, took on the powerful French forces of Napoleon III during the Second French Intervention.

Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin was born on March 24, 1829 in the city of Presidio de La Bahia de Espiritu Santo, now Goliad, in southern Texas, USA. He was the second son of the marriage between Miguel Zaragoza and Maria de Jesus Valdez Martinez Seguin.

When he was five years old, after the independence of Texas, his family moved to Matamoros in Tamaulipas state, where he began his studies and ten years later he moved to Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.

For several years he leaned toward the priesthood, but then left, perhaps to continue the example of his father, who was an infantryman.

During the United States intervention in Mexico between 1846 and 1848,young Zaragoza tried to enlist as a cadet, but was rejected.

He saw, however, from a distance, how Mexico lost more than half of its territory in an unequal war. It was not until 1853 that he managed to enter the Nuevo Leon army, first as a sergeant, then later as captain of his regiment. In 1854, he decided to join the Plan de Ayutla, a movement that attempted to overthrow the dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

Along with 100 followers, he took up arms to defend the liberal cause, a cause that he would not abandon until his death.
In 1860, he fought in favor of the Constitution of 1857. He also participated in the battle of Calpulalpan, facing the conservative forces. In this battle, easily won thanks to a brave counterattack, the liberals ended the War of Reform and laid down the foundations of a new republican system.

During the term of Benito Juarez, Zaragoza was recognized for his high sense of loyalty and patriotism. Thus, he served his country as Minister of the Army and Navy, a position that he held until 1861.

But the most remarkable passage in the life of this military man was when the fledgling Republic of Mexico, financially drowning due to all of its debts and war expenses, decided, through the person of Benito Juarez, to decree a moratorium to suspend all foreign debt payments.

Faced with this scenario; Spain, France and Britain, countries to whom the majority of the debt was owed, became dissatisfied and made up a tripartite alliance whose armed forces reached the port of Veracruz.

After further negotiations, Spain and England decided to retreat, but France, in a frank desire to build a new imperial government and extend its American colonies, decided to continue its foray into Mexican territory.

President Juarez swiftly organized a military unit and placed General Ignacio Zaragoza in command.

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