30 April 2007

Book Review: Cinco de Mayo: What is Everybody Celebrating?

Cinco de Mayo: What is Everybody Celebrating?
by Donald W. Miles
2021 Pine Lake Road
Lincoln, NE 68512
278 pages
$ 20.95

Responsible parenting or teaching would send an inquisitive child to “look it up,” whatever “it” may be—a word, a fact, or an historical event. But what happens when there are no credible, adult focused resources to research from? Donald W. Miles found this to be the case when he went searching for a book to recount the historical events of the popular holiday, Cinco de Mayo. Children’s books about the holiday were plentiful, but none were available for adults with accurate, historical, in depth information. In this world of constant documentation, it is hard to believe that some topics have gone un-discussed, and that false information continues to be taught regarding a largely celebrated holiday. With this in mind, Miles made it his mission to compile the disparate resources his research uncovered into one document—Cinco de Mayo: What is Everyone Celebrating?

Miles’ book is a step by step historical progression through the seven-year struggle for Mexicans to reclaim their country from the grip of Napoleon III that began with the battle of Puebla in 19th century Mexico. He painstakingly sets the scene for every move the European armies made on their progress to take Mexico City and install Archduke Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico. Not only does Miles give readers an intimate view of the military rationale for every advancement from Veracruz to Puebla to Mexico City and the eventual execution of Archduke Maximilian, he incorporates the perspectives of the Mexican people and how the American Civil War effected the movement of both French and Mexican armies. Miles provides a panoramic perspective on events that have been glossed over in the past, and drives home the impact of the battle of Puebla for any individual seeking an understanding of celebration of Cinco de Mayo. Though at times Cinco de Mayo can appear to be flirting with historical fiction, Miles demonstrates his thorough research in every segment of the book, and offers a complete bibliography to support his presentation of a segment of time in Mexican history.

Cinco de Mayo is a comfortable journey through the past, and does not bludgeon readers with footnotes or with dry accounts of military staging. Instead the snapshot structure of the book allows readers to easily follow the progression of events leading to the battle, and the motivations of all parties involved. Cinco de Mayo is as much about the creation of Mexican culture as it is an historical account of a battle against occupation and imperialization led by Napoleon III. Rather than recounting the events with the stereotyped sterility of history books, Miles brings to life the major actors in the theatre of war in a highly readable, accessible rendering of events and personalities.

~Review by Dawn M. Papuga

**Review completed for BookPleasures.com**