Cinco de Mayo: La Batalla (May 5: The Battle) tells the historical events of the French and Mexican Conservative siege over the city of Puebla on May 5 1862 against the Mexican Liberal army under General Ignacio Zaragoza’s command. Several historical figures include General Porfirio Diaz, President Benito Juarez, President Abraham Lincoln, and Emperor Napoleon III. An unusual figure, Mexican Soldier Juan Osorno, appears as the protagonist of the movie.
The movie starts with Victor Hugo’s quote that say, “France is not at war with you, but the empire. You and I are fighting against the empire. You, in your country, I, in exile. Brave Mexican men, resist. The attack against the Republic of Mexico is a continuation of the attack against the French Republic.” This may imply that Victor Hugo meant to say that France was meant to be a republic, not an empire under Napoleon III’s rule. Then a scene of an execution appears. The reviewer believes that the Executed were Maximilian I, along with Tomas Mejia and Miguel Miramon. After that scene, other captions tell a summary of the War of Reform that Juarez waged against the Conservatives, leaving the country devastated and in bankruptcy.
The Conservatives are Juarez’s and the Liberals’ enemies, trying to keeps the things in Mexico the way it was. After being defeated by the Liberals, the Conservatives then would flee to France to ask for help to Napoleon III to establish an empire in Mexico. The conservatives would discuss with Napoleon the Juarez’s plan to suspend the debt payments to Spain, France, and England, which made Napoleon perfect sense to expand his French empire to Mexico, designing Charles Ferdinand Latrille, Count of Lorencez the commander of the French troops. Napoleon and Latrille, in an evil, despicable, ambitious expression, discussed the plans to conquer Mexico and convert it into a military platform of support for the Confederate States, so they can invade the United States under Lincoln’s rule. This explains why the United States celebrates Cinco de Mayo more than Mexico; even Lincoln congratulated Juarez for keeping the French out of Mexico. The movie portrayed Napoleon and Latrille as the “villains” of the story.
The designation of Juan Osorno, a Mexican soldier, as the “de facto” protagonist would catch the viewer’s attention most of the movie’s length; however it did not lose the accuracy of the events of the Cinco de Mayo. For some reason, the movie had to add a romantic essence of Juan Osorno with the appearance of Citlali, a mestiza helping her aunt with the Mexican troop needs. Showing signs of cowardice, Osorno deserts the army along with Citlali, while Artemio, Osorno’s friend, covers his desertion. However, Osorno returns to the Army along with Citlali, revealing the location and size of the French and Conservative troops under Marquez’s command. Since that point, Osorno became a helpful source of information for General Zaragoza; however, his friend Artemio died on the hands of the French. Osorno makes comments of the Mexican Army that, although slightly biased, described the conditions of the soldiers: unskilled, unprepared, and lacking proper equipment like uniforms and rifles. During the battle, Osorno did not fight too much and was injured severely during the battle. Citlali finds him unconscious and bleeding from all parts of the body. The final captions at the end of the movie never mentions of Osorno’s fate as if he was not important after all in the plot of the movie.
Meanwhile, Juarez discussed the plans of negotiation with the Spanish, English, and French with Minister Doblado. The actor portrays Juarez as a peaceful man of wisdom, of course worried about the foreign threat but willing to use the military as a way to defend themselves from the enemy. Juarez’s recognition of general Prim’s efforts to reach peace in Mexico shows a humble and righteous quality on the then President of Mexico. On the other hand, General Ignacio Zaragoza, designed as War Secretary, promises his wife to defend his country from the French. Kuno Becker performed well in the role of General Zaragoza, despite having long hair. Becker portrays Zaragoza as a pacific, intelligent man that cared for his army, his colleagues (General Porfirio Diaz among them), his family, and his country. The words from General Zaragoza on the morning of May 5 1862 cheer the troops’ hopes of winning the war in Puebla. It also criticize the people’s fear of facing foreign enemies, the feeling or sentiment of inferiority, and the defeatism that chased and humiliated Mexicans as a nation.
Meanwhile in the port of Veracruz, from the Generals of the invading armies, General Prim from Spain willingly wanted, along with his counterparts, to negotiate the debt with the Mexican government. The English Commodore Dunlop showed more neutrality at first but he later rejected, along with Prim, the French plans to establish an Empire in Mexico. Mr. Saligny, a French diplomat, the reviewer believes, shows obvious signs of arrogance, as well as complaining of the precarious conditions in the Fort of San Juan de Ulua. In Orizaba, the Spanish and English representatives, Prim and Dunlop respectively, look for a guarantee from a slightly drunk Minister Doblado on the debt negotiations, and willingly look to cooperate with the Mexican government, meanwhile Mr. Saligny still suggest the use of the troops, continuously showing arrogance. At that time, the Spanish and the English did not know the intentions of the French to occupy Mexico, until Latrille arrived with 8 battleships and 5000 men to the port of Veracruz along with Conservative Mexican General Almonte –Latrille reveals that Almonte, the son of Morelos, wants a European Empire. As well as Saligny and Latrille, Almonte shows arrogance, evil, and ambitious plans to take over Mexico. Another conservative, General Marquez, joins the “gang of evil.”
The movie shows around 30 minutes of men fighting each other on the field with massive shootings, beheadings, viscera rip-offs, cannon blow-ups, and “machetazos.” The reviewer suggests just 15 minutes of warfare. Mexicans barely won the battle against the French, making them retreat from the field. Commander Latrille felt humiliated by an “inferior army” he always considered for the French troops. At the end of the battle, one of Zaragoza’s men reports that General Porfirio Diaz was responsible for the defeat of the French and Conservative troops. Ironically, Diaz would become a fan of France’s culture, its customs, and its political model inspired by Napoleon.
In short, the movie tells the roles of Zaragoza and Diaz as keys for the defeat of the French and conservatives. However, despite Mexico’s victory, Liberals and Conservatives would still have their own disputes in Mexico, leaving a legacy in the 19th Century. The French portrayed as the villains to take over Mexico is almost as parallel as Nazi Germany’s plans to take over Europe or like those cartoon villains wanting to rule over the world. People living in the United States should watch this movie to understand the whole story behind the holiday that means for them Mexican music, food, traditional costumes, and beer, as well as the erroneous belief that May 5 is the Mexican Independence from Spain when in fact, is celebrated in September 15 and 16.