________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 16 . . . . April 14, 2000

cover Cinco de Mayo: Yesterday and Today.

Claudia Burr, Krystyna Libura and Maria Cristina Urrutia.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/Douglas & McIntyre, 1999.
32 pp., cloth, $15.95.
ISBN 0-88899-355-2.

Subject Headings:
Mexico-History-European intervention, 1861-1867-Juvenile literature.
Cinco de Mayo-Battle of, 1862-Juvenile literature.
Cinco de Mayo (Mexican holiday)-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-6/Ages 9-11.
Review by Gail Hamilton.

** /4


The story goes that when it was time for battle, the French dropped their knapsacks and advanced five thousand strong on Guadalupe Hill. The French general shouted, "It is twelve o'clock. Time to fight!"

Zaragoza, the Mexican general, commanded, "Charge the enemy!" It was then that both armies let their cannons roar.

image Reviewed from prepublication copy.

Each year, on the fifth of May (Cinco de Mayo), the people in various Mexican towns re-enact the battle of Puebla to commemorate Mexico's independence from France under Emperor Napoleon III. This story, told from the perspective of a villager in San Miguel Tlaixpan, gives historical details of the events leading up to the conflict and the fierce four-hour battle which ended when the French retreated because a sudden hailstorm soaked the gunpowder for their cannons. Allies of the Mexicans, the Chinacos and the Zacapoaxtle Indians, are credited with helping them to defeat the enemy.

What is unique about this book is the blending of past and present, both in the text and in the illustrations. As the narrator tells the story of the battle, he stops frequently to explain how present-day villagers go about the re-enactment of this important event in Mexican history. Illustrations match the text. Lending authenticity, historical lithographs depicting the battlefields, the people and the architecture of the time contrast with colour photographs of the villagers dressed in costumes for the re-enactment. The photos do not always seem to be in sharp focus (perhaps this is a result of the type of paper used in the publication of the book, or perhaps this effect is intentional). Text is based on newspaper accounts and dispatches by generals in the Mexican army. Villagers of San Miguel Tlaixpan provide the information on their Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

This book fills a niche as it helps children to understand the reason for the Cinco de Mayo holiday which has become a symbol of Mexican pride and independence. While Cinco de Mayo will be of value to children of Mexican descent, it will not likely be in great demand by the general school population. Its popularity will depend largely on the school demographic.

Recommended with Reservations.

Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian in Birds Hill School in East St. Paul, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364