Saturday, May 5, 2012

World Building Series & Cinco de Mayo

Hello Beardies :)

Many people celebrate the Cinco de Mayo holiday (Mexican, Mexican-American, or not), but many do not know the true reason for its observance--nor do many Americans realize they actually have a reason to celebrate it.  It is because of this that I would like to post an educational post--which will also tie into my World Building Series.

Cinco de Mayo is less about margaritas and more about military conflict.

Battle of Puebla
Cinco de Mayo has its roots in the French occupation of Mexico, which took place in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, the Mexican Civil War of 1858, and the 1860 Reform Wars. These wars left the Mexican Treasury in ruins and nearly bankrupt.

On July 17, 1861, Mexican President Benito Juárez issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for two years.  In response, France, Britain, and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew, but France, at the time ruled by Napoleon III, decided to use the opportunity to establish a Latin empire in Mexico that would favor French interests, the Second Mexican Empire.

In late 1861, a well-armed French fleet stormed Veracruz, landing a large French force and driving President Benito Juárez and his government into retreat. Moving from Veracruz towards Mexico City, the French army encountered heavy resistance from the Mexicans near Puebla, at the Mexican strongholds of Fort Loreto and Fort Guadalupe.  The French army, led by Napoleon III and 8,000 strong, attacked the much more poorly equipped Mexican army of 4,000. Yet, on May 5, 1862, the Mexicans managed to decisively crush the French army, one which, according to an article in Philadelphia's The Bulletin daily newspaper, was the best army of the time.

At the same time of the French occupation of Mexico, America was fighting its own Civil War, a war in which Napoleon III had a great deal of influence.  What most Americans do not know or realize is that they also owe a lot of gratitude to the Mexican defeat of the French.  It is because of this defeat that Napoleon (who was aiding the Confederacy in hopes the war would divide America, making it an easier target and less of a threat on the French Empire), was unable to deliver much-needed supplies to a struggling Confederacy, which only grew weaker.  The Union was able to defeat the Confederate Army and unite America on account of the Confederacy's weakened state.
{Source: Wikipedia}

Now you know--and knowing is half the battle--but you are probably scratching your head and wondering what any of this has to do with Fantasy, writing, or World Building... right?

Simply this:  Why not create a "holiday" for your "World", one which is celebrated blindly by the world's denizens, and then have one of your characters explain its true origins to another character (or group of characters) as an excuse/outlet to describe the details of an epic battle scene from the past that now has repercussions on current events within the book?

Perhaps it sounds like a stretch to you, but I have an instance in the third book of my Chronicles of Aesiranyn series where another character does exactly that!

Or how about this... what if you were to create a world--an alternate history--in which France won the Battle of Puebla and took control over Mexico?  What if the South won the Civil War because of it? What would the world be like?  What Mexico still be called Mexico, or perhaps some French variation of the word?  Would Napoleon have succeeded in dividing America?

So many other questions arise, each with an answer that provides yet another scenario/possible storyline, and this is just one of many plots along the history of the world!

I am hoping that this post created some inspiration for some notebook scribbles!

Happy Scribbling... er, Scribing,

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