“Lincoln Declared Him Free” – Cinco de Mayo, Latinos, and Lincoln

David Hayes-Bautista has done some excellent work on the nineteenth-century origins of Cinco de Mayo. Based on his work, and other pieces he has written (all parade banners and transalations below are from Bautista’s Latinos.Lincoln1 and Latinos.Lincoln.Obama2), I wrote this in my book about the relationship between Lincoln and the Republican Party, Latinos, and a broader understanding of liberty:

“In contrast to those with misgivings about the president and with an enthusiasm indicative of the breadth of Lincoln’s popularity, there was one group of people out west decisively in favor of Abraham Lincoln’s reelection. At the height of the 1864 campaign Lincoln found strong support among Latinos in California who directly linked voting for the president with opposing tyranny and larger ideas of liberty. In San Francisco a pro-Union club was established, while in one October parade various banners displayed pro-Lincoln, anti-French, and anti-Confederate viewpoints (Napoleon III had installed a client regime in Mexico under the emperor Maximilian). “Honest Abe is our man [Death to Maximilian]” was proudly exhibited on one sign, while another harshly declared “Maximiliano el usurpador – Davis el traidor” (Maximilian the usurper, [Jefferson] Davis the traitor). More significantly, one banner claimed, “Dios hizo el hombre y Lincoln lo declaró libre.” (God created man, and Lincoln declared him free). Such sentiments indicated that by 1864, if not much earlier, Abraham Lincoln and the Union cause were associated not only with the cause of expanding freedom for all in the United States but also as a fight for its broader definition outside the nation’s borders.”

So, today, keep this in mind as you celebrate Cinco de Mayo.


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