Our bank holidays are often related to important historical dates, such as our war of independence or the day our Constitution was signed. But what is the story behind a holiday celebrating The Cakes War in Mexico?
Yes, here in Mexico we celebrate what we call The Cakes War. It all began back in 1838 when there was social and political instability in Mexico. During that period the militia frequently looted and among the looted was a French merchant by the name of Remontel. He owned a bakery and lost many cakes during this instability. So, Remontel went to talk to the French ambassador at that time to receive compensation for his losses. The amount was $60,000 pesos.
Remontel wasn’t the only one who wanted remuneration. There were many other French merchants asking for money. But the Mexican government was having financial problems during this time and also had some issues with Spain and England, simultaneously. So, the Mexican government said they would not pay the money requested by the French merchants.
Because of this, the French ambassador went to France to discuss this matter with Napoleon. The French emperor’s answer was to return his ambassador to Mexico accompanied by a number of battleships. When the French ambassador went to talk to the Mexican government he was no longer asking for $60,000 pesos, but $600,000 pesos. Mexico refused to pay this amount of money, and that is when the famous Cake War started.
The French invaded Mexico in 1861 and took the fort San Juan de Ulúa in the state of Veracruz for seven months. Then the battleships began shooting. The French troops continued their way to the state of Puebla. In Puebla, Mexican troops, with the help of the Indigenous people called Zacapoaxtlas, defeated the French troops on the hill called Cerro de Loreto y Guadalupe. The Zacapoaxtlas people knew this hill like the back of their hands. Without their help in defeating the French in this battle, the French would have continued on to Mexico City and the history of this period would have been very different.
This holiday is well known in the United Stated as 5 de Mayo, or Cinco de Mayo. Americans celebrate it as the Mexican victory over the French in this important battle. Here in Mexico it is known as La Batalla de Puebla or La Guerra de los Pasteles.
The Cakes War brings together in celebration the Mexican people and expats in Mexico each early May. We hope you had a great day, however you refer to this important date in Mexico’s history. Maybe next year you’ll celebrate by baking a cake!