But the opening reception of the art display on Monday, May 5,
also included a lecture that turned on its ear everyone’s notion
of why Cinco de Mayo is important. The audience learned about
the Battle of Puebla fought on May 5, 1862, which stopped the
advance of the French infantry in its tracks—in a quest to
recolonize Latin America.
“It’s geared at the general population of Toledo,” said
Arturo Quintero, SQACC board president. “This is not the
perspective that we as individual citizens of the U.S. look at
as Cinco de Mayo. This is an eye-opening, historical perspective
of this event, with the geopolitics of everything that occurred
in 1862. This is a fabulous story of how Mexican influence
generated a different United States today than what we could
have had if the Battle of Puebla had not occurred.”
Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins welcomed the visitors to
the main library’s McMaster Center and presented proclamations
to the SQACC board, the Mexican Consulate based in Detroit, and
guest lecturer Dr. Raúl Bringas Nostti, professor in the
International Business Administration Department, Universidad de
las Américas Puebla.
“Cultural differences are not a barrier to progress. They are
ladders to progress,” said Mayor Collins, who grew up in the Old
South End as the son of Irish immigrants among many Latino
families. “That is a neighborhood of differences—but positive
Dr. Bringas, a historian, researcher, and social anthropologist,
told the crowd that the U.S. was engaged in civil war at the
time the French government wanted to recolonize Latin America,
including México, which had asserted its independence from Spain
just 40 years earlier. The U.S. was operating under its
Monroe Doctrine in 1862, which warned European countries to
stay out of the western hemisphere.
However, the U.S. was politically unable to enforce such a
doctrine, as the North waged war with the Confederate states.
The French government, under Napoleon III, had formed an
alliance of sorts with the Confederacy.
The French infantry attempted to march from the port city of
Veracruz to México’s capital, a mission that took their troops
through Puebla. On May 5, 1862, the
battle ended in a victory for the
Mexican Army over the occupying French forces.
The French eventually overran the Mexicans in subsequent
battles, but the Mexican victory at Puebla against a much better
equipped and larger French army provided a significant morale
boost to the Mexican army and also helped slow the French army’s
advance towards México City.
“What the Mexican Army didn’t realize was the significance of
this victory in a geopolitical sense,” said Dr.
Bringas Nostti, who explained that it
would be a year later before France could transport fresh troops
to Latin America—and by then, the U.S. Civil War was over and
its alliance with the Confederacy fell apart, along with its
attempt to establish a Latin American empire.
Dr. Bringas Nostti told the crowd
that Cinco de Mayo is not a national holiday in México, but
celebrated regionally—especially in Puebla, with a large parade
to mark the significance of the battle. Many US-Americans
mistake the holiday as a celebration of Mexico’s independence
[which is actually Sept. 16th], which he wrote off as
a cultural misnomer.
Over the past few years, Toledo city officials and volunteers
have sought a sister cities relationship with Puebla, México.
María Rodríguez-Winter, SQACC executive director, traveled
there with five other Toledoans at their own expense to explore
opportunities and options. One of their stops was a tour of the
190-year old Uriarte Talavera Tile Company, now known as
Mexico’s eighth-oldest company.
The sister cities relationship has yet to become official,
because the mayor’s offices in both cities have seen new faces
enter in the past couple of years. But the tour of the factory
and an adjoining art gallery led to Toledo being added to a U.S.
tour of the ceramic art display. The Mexican Consulate in
Detroit helped to facilitate the artistic and cultural exchange.
A dozen ceramic art pieces are currently on display at each of
three Toledo venues: La Galería de las Américas, 1224
Broadway; the Main Library downtown, 325 Michigan St.; and
Maumee Valley Country Day School, 1715 S. Reynolds Rd. The
artwork will be on display at all three locations through May
“This is a unique opportunity to present something different,”
explained Juan Manuel Solana, General Cónsul from the
Consulate of México in Detroit. “I believe this show is really
magnificent. You have to go to each of these places to really
see what comes out of such creativity, while showcasing what I
call the synergy of three different cultures: the culture of
México, the culture of China, and the culture of Spain.” José
F. Casas from the consulate accompanied Sr. Solana to the
Toledo library’s display.
Uriarte Talavera Tile Company and the Universidad de las América
Puebla invited 38 artists to create unique pieces of art in
talavera, a type of majolica earthenware to mark the 150th
anniversary of the Battle of Puebla in 2012.
The Uriarte Talavera exhibit was funded in part through a grant
from the Ohio Arts Council.
On the Internet: www.uriartetalavera.com.mx