Family ties bind Mexican history to Windsor Site DEI member
The history of Mexico is something near and dear to the heart of the Windsor Site’s Jose Zacarias Silva Limas, not only because it is his original home country – but also because a member of his own family helped shape that very history.
Given this, Cinco de Mayo means something far different to him than the version with which most North Americans are familiar. As a member of the new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Windsor Council, Limas welcomes the idea of helping his teammates understand more about Mexico and his family’s connection.
“I was born and raised in Mexico and have been a Canadian citizen since 1998. Mexico is a country with a rich history, not only after Spain came to invade in the early 1500s but also in the pre-Hispanic era as well with the Maya and Aztec cultures being the most famous,” said the Windsor Engine Plant - Annex Launch Process Engineer who explained that Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for "Fifth of May") is an annual celebration held in commemoration of the smaller Mexican Army's victory over the larger French Empire at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza.
"This battle was significant in that the 4,000 Mexican soldiers were greatly outnumbered by the well-equipped French army of 8,000 that had not been defeated for almost 50 years," he noted.
The victory of the smaller Mexican force against a larger French force was a boost to morale for the Mexicans. However, Zaragoza died just months after the battle due to illness and, a year after the battle, a larger French force defeated the Mexican army at the Second Battle of Puebla with Mexico City soon falling to the invaders.
“Cinco de Mayo reminds me of the importance of learning from the past, aiming at the future but also enjoying the present,” said Limas.
Cinco de Mayo has since morphed into a highly-commercialized celebration of Mexican-American culture said to actually be more popular in the United States than in Mexico itself thanks especially to advertising campaigns by beer and wine companies in the 1980s.
What it is not, stressed Limas, is a Mexican version of the 4th of July.
“Mexico’s Independence Day is actually celebrated on September 16, commemorating the Cry of Dolores, which in 1810, initiated the war of Mexican independence from Spain. After this, the Mexican Revolution happened in 1910, exactly 100 years after the independence from Spain. This is where my family connection resides.”
During this time period, Limas’ grandfather, Jose Aparis Silva (on his mother’s side) was a general in the Mexican Army that fought against José Doroteo Arango Arámbula, better known as the now-iconic Francisco “Pancho” Villa – a Mexican revolutionary general and one of the most prominent figures of the Mexican REVOLUTION as well as part of a conflict between USA and Mexico in 1916.
“My grandfather was part of the Mexican Army fighting against Pancho Villa, a very famous national hero in Mexico or a villain in the opinion of the USA, as he invaded Columbus, New Mexico in the times of President Woodrow Wilson. My grandfather was part of the federal government group pursuing Pancho Villa near the Columbus, New Mexico border,” said Limas.
“The US Army eventually helped my grandfather and the Mexican Army in locating the highly-skilled Villa and, as a result, led to the Battle of Columbus in 1916.”
There, forces led by Villa attacked a detachment of the 13th Cavalry Regiment (United States), burned the town, and seized 100 horses and mules and other military supplies. Eighteen Americans and about 80 Villistas were killed.
Eventually, Villa was driven back into Mexico by both armies. Villa was never captured by authorities and retired from hostilities in 1920. He was eventually assassinated in 1923 after involving himself once again in Mexican politics.
Limas said he is pleased to have the chance to now share the more than 100-year-old artifacts.
“Under the Mexican Army Regiment, freedom of intercity travel was prohibited, authorized only by Army permission. These documents prove that even for military personnel.
“The documents that I have in my possession are important for the history between USA-Mexico,” said Limas.
“I will always be proud of my heritage and am happy to share them with my Ford teammates.”