Category Archives: Mexican Holidays

The Anniversary of the Heroic Defense of Veracruz

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.

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Do you want to learn more about Mexican holidays and traditions?

Then check out A Woman’s Survival Guide to Holidays in Mexico!

 

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Benito Juarez’s Birthday

There isn’t hardly a town in Mexico that does not have a street named after President Benito Juarez so it’s no surprise that his birthday is a national holiday. Benito Pablo Juárez García was born on March 21, 1806, to Brígida García and Marcelino Juárez, Zapotec peasants. After the death of not only his parents but also his grandparents, he was raised by an uncle.  He became a servant in the same household as his older sister in Oaxaca and began formal schooling at age 12 when a prominent citizen arranged for him to attend seminary school. He later went on to study law, graduating in 1834. Juarez was elected to the Oaxaca city council in 1831 and appointed as a civil judge in 1841.

In 1842, he married Margarita Eustaquia Maza Parada, the daughter of the man he served as a child. Margarita was of upper class, Italian descent and 20 years younger than her husband. The two had 12 children (including twin girls) together, however, 5 died in childhood. Benito Juarez also had two children with a woman named Juana Rosa Chagoya prior to his marriage, Tereso and Susana. There’s isn’t much information about Juana although it seems she died before Juarez married Margarita.  Although most biographies record that Juana Rosa was the mother of both children,Tereso had a different last name than Susana which makes it appear as if they had different mothers. (Tereso Juarez Ortiz/Susana Juarez Chagoya). One source names Tereso’s mother as Cruz Ortiz. While Susana was always acknowledged as the natural daughter of Benito Juarez, Tereso was denied legitimacy when he tried to obtain it after Juarez’s death. Susana was said to be mentally deficient in some way and never married which was convenient for the legitimate heirs of Margarita Maza.

Benito Juarez became president of Mexico in 1858 when President Ignacio Comonfort was forced to resign.  Juarez was the head of the Supreme Court, so by order of succession, he assumed the position of president and remained president until his death in 1872.

He was president during the Reform War (1858-1860) which was a civil war between Liberals and Conservatives. He was also president during the French Invasion (1862-1867) although he and his family lived in exile for some time.

Juarez was a Freemason and opposed to the power of the Catholic church in Mexico. La Ley Juarez made it so that neither the military nor the clergy were exempt from civil laws. La Ley Lerdo went one step further and confiscated church lands not directly used for religious purposes. It also abolished communal land which impacted the indigenous communities as well. Although Juarez did not draft La Ley Lerdo, he did pass the Law of Nationalization of the Ecclesiastical Property (Ley de la Nacionalización de Los Bienes Eclesiásticos) in 1859 absorbing church-owned assets and properties into the national treasury.

Further undermining the authority of the church, Juarez created the Civil Registry for births, marriages, and deaths. Juarez also secularized cemeteries and hospitals.  He decreed freedom of religion in 1860 (Ley de Libertad de Cultos) and established national holidays apart from the Catholic church as part of what is known as Los Leyes de Reforma.

Did you know that Benito Juarez was honored as Companion of the Third Class of the Pennsylvania Commandery by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS) in 1866 which was typically reserved for civilians who made a significant contribution to the Union war effort?  He and his wife spent some time in exile in the US and even met President Lincoln. That isn’t something that would happen nowadays though. Just think, an indigenous man from Mexico with his white wife and mixed-race children seek asylum in the US?  Not on your life buster!

Benito Juarez is the face you’ll see on the 20 peso bill along with the scales of justice.  On the back is the archeological site Monte Albán found in  Oaxaca, the symbol for the Bank of Mexico and the symbol of a Cojijo.

The 20 peso bill is heading out the door to be replaced with a coin. However good ol’ Benito is the new face of the 500 peso bill, replacing Frida Kalho and Diego Rivera. This new bill looks enough like the 20 peso bill, down to the color, that some confusion is inevitable, at least until all the 20 peso bills are finally out of circulation.

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Do you want to learn more about Mexican holidays and traditions?

Then check out A Woman’s Survival Guide to Holidays in Mexico!

 

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Aniversario de la Expropiación Petrolera–Oil Expropriation Anniversary

On March 18, 1938, President Lázaro Cárdenas appropriated all petroleum reserves, facilities, and companies in Mexico for Mexico claiming that all mineral and oil deposits belonged to the government. In June of the same year, Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) was formed which until very recently maintained exclusive rights over exploration, extraction, refining, and commercialization of every drop of oil in Mexico.

Now the history books like to say that this is because the foreign oil companies were mistreating their workers but really, it was a shrewd move to keep the wealth found in Mexico in the country. It looked like the whole shebang was going to falter for awhile, but fortunately, World War II created a huge demand and Mexico shot to oil stardom. Now Mexico is the fourth largest oil producer in the Western Hemisphere and the eleventh largest producer of oil in the entire world.

So here we have this national holiday in honor of this momentous event except there have been some changes under President Peña Nieto. In 2013, he changed the constitution to allow direct foreign investment in the oil sector which was approved by Congress in 2014. While things seem to be slow starting, experts predict that this was another shrewd move by the Mexican government.

Captura de pantalla (161)

Of course, even if the government seems to be making out well with the change, there has been no benefit to the average Mexican consumer. Gas prices continue to skyrocket while wages remain stagnant. (México la evolución de los gasolinazos 1940 – 2017) Then of course, the gaspocalypse in January didn’t make matters any easier. 

So Happy Oil Expropriation Anniversary to you too!

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Do you want to learn more about Mexican holidays and traditions?

Then check out A Woman’s Survival Guide to Holidays in Mexico!

 

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Women in Mexican History–Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez

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María Josefa Crescencia Ortiz Téllez-Girón de Dominguez

One of the very few women mentioned in Mexican history is Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez. She was born María Josefa Crescencia Ortiz Téllez-Girón on April 19, 1773, in Valladolid which is now known as Morelia, Michoacan. Her father, Juan José Ortiz Vasquez, a captain of Los Verdes regiment, was killed when she was an infant. Her mother, Manuela Téllez-Girón, died soon after. She was raised by her older sister, Maria Sotera Ortiz.

She attended the Colegio de las Vizcaínas in 1789. There she met her husband, Miguel Dominguez, a widower with 4 children, who had toured the school with a group of officials one day. They secretly married in 1791, less than a year after they met. Josefa was 18 years old and Miguel was 35.

In 1802, Miguel was appointed chief magistrate (Corregidor) of the city Queretaro and brought his growing family there to live. Josefa and Miguel’s married life was reported to be happy and they had 14 children together. Their children were Maria Ignacia (1792), J.M. Florencio (1793), Mariano (1794), Maria Dolores (1796), Miguel (1797), Maria Juana (1799), Maria Micaela (1800), Remigio (1801), Maria Teresa (1803), Maria Manuel (1804), Maria Ana (1806), J.M. Hilarion (1807), Maria Magdalena (1811) and Maria del Carmen (1812).

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Josefa with fellow conspirators Hidalgo and Aldama.

Both Josefa and Miguel, despite his position, were sympathizers in the Mexican revolution movement. They often hosted political meetings attended by Miguel Hidalgo and Ignacio Allende, and aided in the collection of weapons. The revolution was planned for December 8, 1810, however, on September 13, the plot was betrayed.

Josefa’s husband Miguel was ordered to apprehend the revolutionaries. He locked Josefa in her room to keep her out of harm’s way and prevent her from warning the other. She still managed to get a message out, pieced together with cut out letters from printed text to hide her involvement. This message was eventually taken to Miguel Hidalgo who subsequently moved the date of the revolution up and gave his rousing speech in Dolores (El Grito de Dolores) in the evening of September 15.

On September 16, both Josefa and her husband were arrested. Miguel, because of his government position, was released the following day. However, Josefa (known as La Corregidora) was not released until October 22, 1810. She was pregnant with her daughter Maria Magdalena (born March 14, 1811) during her incarceration.

In December of 1813, Josefa’s husband turned her over to authorities for her role in the rebellion against Spain. She was confined to the Santa Clara Convent in Queretaro for a time, then sent to Mexico City to stand trial. She was found guilty and sent to the Santa Teresa Convent. She was released into her husband’s custody in April 1814 because of poor health. She miscarried her 15th child shortly after her release.

She was arrested again on December 22, 1815, and sent to the Santa Catalina de Sena Convent. She was finally released on June 17, 1817, after swearing an oath that she would no longer participate in any acts of rebellion against the Spanish crown.

She died from pleurisy on March 2, 1829, in Mexico City. Her patriotic acts and sacrifices earned her a place in the roll call of El Grito Mexicano recited each year during the Independence celebrations. ¡Viva Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez!

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Do you want to learn more about Mexican holidays and traditions?

Then check out A Woman’s Survival Guide to Holidays in Mexico!

 

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