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Posted on 05-05-2011
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What were French troops doing in Mexico?


Photo: ESFP
Patrick Osio, Jr.

de Reforma" (The War of Reform). In 1861, the Conservatives were defeated, and their leaders executed. But the combination of so many years of fighting had placed Mexico in heavy international debt with England, Spain and France.
Meantime in the French court of Emperor Napoleon III, a wealthy Mexican land owner and Conservative, who had access to, and meetings with, the Emperor's wife, the Spaniard Eugenia de Montijo, planted the idea of establishing a monarchy in Mexico as a way of stopping the further territorial expansion ambitions of the U.S..
The U.S. was tied up in its Civil War, so France convinced Spain and England to join in sending troops to collect monies owed them by the new Liberal controlled government presided by Benito Juarez.
Troops from the three countries landed in Veracruz in late 1861. The English and Spaniards were able to negotiate a repayment schedule that was acceptable to all. The parties, including the French, signed the agreement. The Spaniard and English troops left Mexico without incident.
The French commander, Dubois de Saligny, declared, "My signature is worth as much as the paper it is written on." Declaring they were there at the invitation of the exiled Conservative government to establish a monarchy and save Mexico from its non Catholic leaders, French troops began their long march to capture Mexico City.

And so it was that on May 5, 1862, the most potent army in Europe of its day met the Mexican army of veterans and farmers outside of Puebla. Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza, addressed his troops, "Your enemies are the first-rate soldiers of the world; but you are the sons of Mexico, and they are here to take your country."
The battle began at noon - the French stormed ...
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