Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Poe) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. POE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in honor of Cinco de Mayo. I rise to recognize and remember the importance of this day and salute the millions of Mexicans and Americans of Mexican descent that will celebrate throughout the Americas this day, this important day.

While the War Between the States was raging in the 1860s, at the same time, on May 5 in 1862 an undersized, inadequately armed band of Mexicans determined to defend their land, fought a lopsided contest against their oppressors, those oppressors who were invading their homes.

Many people assume that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence Day from Spain, but that is not correct. Mexico's actual Independence Day is September 16, 1821. Some 40 years after Mexico achieved independence from Spain, their country was once again threatened, this time by the French. And that year, Napoleon III sent a massive, mighty military force to Mexico to unseat President Benito Juarez.

The French plan was to overthrow Juarez and take over the country. However, their overconfidence brought about their proudful downfall. They even brought along a Hapsburg prince, Maximilian, to be the new king over the Mexican empire. They were sorely mistaken in their ideal.

Napoleon's French army had not been defeated in 50 years and did not expect to lose this battle with these people. This distinguished, well-trained Army marched in with the finest equipment and the arrogance to go along with it. The French were not afraid of anything, but they should have been. Little did they know that the Mexicans would give them a fight to remember.

On May 5, 1862, the French Army left the Port of Vera Cruz to attack Mexico City. The French assumed that if they could take down the capitol, all of Mexico and their people would surrender.

The Mexicans were under the command of a Texas-born general, General Ignacio Seguin Zaragosa, and they waited and waited for the French, determined, diligent, and dedicated to defending this land. As the French Army headed to Mexico City, they were halted on the way. On May 5, 1862, while the cannons roared and rifle shots rang out, the French attacked 2 Mexican forts. Before the day was over, more than 1,000 French soldiers were dead. Against all odds, this hastily-assembled Mexican Army had routed the French imperialism in the city of Puebla, despite being outnumbered 2 to 1. The French left Mexico, and they have never returned.

So Cinco de Mayo is a day of celebration in Mexico as well as the United States. In my home State of Texas, where there are over 6 million Americans of Mexican descent, there are numerous celebrations taking place all over the State and in towns on this date. Cinco de Mayo is a wonderful opportunity to salute the contributions being made by all Hispanics in the Lone Star State and all of America. In my district, the second district of Texas, we have over 80,000 Hispanic members of the community. I feel fortunate to represent and live in a community that benefits from the dynamic presence of this richly proud culture.

So, Mr. Speaker, I rise to join all Americans and all Mexicans in recognition of this important day in history. The Mexicans who fought and died on a battlefield near Puebla 143 years ago represent the ideal and spirit of all humans, no matter what their race or their culture, to be free and be a free people.

Their determination embodied a spirit of freedom and patriotism. Cinco de Mayo is a chance for everyone to remember how essential our freedom is, how difficult it is to obtain, and how vigilant we must remain to defend it, no matter the cost.