April 21 is a national holiday. It marks the day in 1914 that US naval troops invaded Veracruz and the death of an unknown number of Mexican civilians, nearly 200 soldiers, Luis Felipe José Azueta Abad and Virgilio Uribe Robles both cadets at the naval academy. Azueta and Uribe are included in the roll call of honor along with the six Niños Héroes that died during the Battle of Chapultepec on September 13, 1847.
So here’s what happened in a nutshell. During this time period, relations between the US and Mexico were not the best. Additionally, Mexico was in the midst of a civil war. There had been an unfortunate incident earlier in the month in Tampico, Tamaulipas. Nine unarmed US sailors had been arrested when they entered an off-limits fueling station. The sailors were later released, unharmed, but the US Navy demanded an official apology from the Mexican government and a 21-gun salute. Mexico apologized but the 21-gun salute was not provided. A request was made to the US Congress to authorize the occupation of Veracruz.
While awaiting authorization, President Woodrow Wilson learned of a shipment of arms set to arrive on April 21 in Veracruz for Victoriano Huerta, who had taken over the Mexican presidency the previous year with the assistance of the US ambassador. The weapons had been financed by a US businessman with large investments in Mexico and a Russian arms dealer from Puebla. This arms shipment was used to legitimize the occupation of Veracruz.
As a result of the invasion and 7-month occupation, US citizens were expelled from Mexico and housed in refugee camps in New Orleans, Texas City, and San Diego. The tension between Mexico and the US, along with the ongoing Mexican Civil War, kept Mexico out of World War I. The US considered another occupation of both Veracruz and Tampico in 1917, however, the new president Venustiano Carranza had the oil fields destroyed there, reducing the value of another hostile invasion.
As for civic events in honor of this day, they tend to be limited to Veracruz and military bases.
Do you want to learn more about Mexican holidays and traditions?
Then check out A Woman’s Survival Guide to Holidays in Mexico!