On May 5th 1862 in the city of Puebla the 8000 invading forces of Maximilliano the Archduke of Austria, would encounter a force of4000 determined Mexican troops led by Ignacio Zaragoza. We have all heard the story of how General Zaragoza who was born in Goliad, Texas would successfully defeat the French invaders at the Battle of Puebla, but that is only half of the story.
In 1829 under the administration of Mexican President Vicente Guerrero, who was Black, had banned slavery. In 1862 when France invaded Mexico the U.S. was fighting a war to preserve the institution of slavery. We know now that Napoleon intended entering the United States and joining the Confederates; therefore had it not been for the Mexicans the institution of slavery may have remained unresolved for another hundred years.
What also is little known is that General Zaragoza would recruit Captain Porfirio Zamora from Palito Blanco in south Texas and in turn recruited, we believe, as many as 500 Tejano’s. Together as a cavalry unit they would join the Mexican Army and fight to defend Mexico from the French intervention. These Tejano volunteers came from as far as Corpus Christi to El Paso and all along the Rio Grande Valley.
According to Dr Andres Tijerina professor of Texas History, the Tejano Cavalry that fought under the leadership of Captain Porfirio Zamora, would help defeat the French infantry and this decisive charge would end the Battle of Puebla.
After the French were driven out of Mexico the surviving Tejanos returned and started the celebrations in south Texas. Dr Tijerina says that had it not been for the 500 Tejanos the war may have had a different outcome. These Tejanos considered the Battle of Puebla as their contribution in saving Mexico from French domination. After the war, Porfirio Zamora would be promoted to Major, and for his bravery and valor, would be awarded Mexico’s second highest military medal, “ La Condecoracion de Segunda Clase.” This medal and citation were personally signed by President Benito Juarez.
So powerful in Mexican politics was Zamora that after Benito Juarez died, General Porfirio Diaz, candidate for Mexican President rode all the way to Alice Texas to seek the endorsement of Major Porfirio Zamora. And now you know the rest of the story.
Ref: El Mesquite, Elena Zamora O’ Shea Texas A & M University originally published 1935 by Mathis Publishing Co., Dallas, Texas
Dan Arellano is an Author/Historian and President of the Battle of Medina Society.
[Photo by Jamuki, Charge of the Mexican Cavalry at the Battle of Puebla, released to the public domain]