History of French involvement in Latin America in the 19th century

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Latin America is a group of nations and territories in the Western Hemisphere where Romance languages such as Spanish, French, and Portuguese are mostly spoken.

Between 1821 CE and 1910 CE, Mexico battled through several civil wars between the Liberal reformists and the established Conservative government. On May 8, 1827 CE, Sebastián Camacho, a Mexican diplomat, and Baron Damas, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, approved an agreement called “The Declarations,” which included plans regarding navigation and commerce between Mexico and France.

This started the French involvement in Latin America during the 19th Century of the 19th Century, and we will explore that in our today’s history article.

In the early 19th Century CE, the French administration did not accept Mexico as an independent nation. It was not until 1861 CE that the liberalist rebels, headed by Benito Juárez, seized total control of Mexico City, finally consolidating liberal rule for the first time. However, the steady-state of warfare left Mexico with an enormous amount of debt owed to England, Spain, and France, all of whom financed the Mexican war effort. As newly elected president, Benito Juárez deferred payment of debts for the next couple of years to focus on a stabilization and rebuilding initiative in Mexico under the new administration. On December 8, 1861 CE, England, Spain, and France arrived in Veracruz to seize Mexico’s unpaid debts. However, Napoleon III, with plans of installing a French client state to push his business interests further, compelled the other two powers to retreat in 1862 CE.

France under the mighty Napoleon III established and remained Maximilian of Habsburg, Archduke of Austria, as the next Emperor of Mexico.

The march by the Napolean governed French to Mexico City attracted massive resistance by the Mexican government; it resulted in damaging open warfare. The Battle of Puebla in 1862 CE, in particular, created a major turning point in which Ignacio Zaragoza headed the Mexican army to success as they ultimately pushed back the French offensive. The win came to signify Mexico’s power and national resolve against barbaric occupancy and, as a result, delayed France’s terminal attack on Mexico City for an entire year. With tremendous resistance by Mexican rebels and the concern of United States intrusion against France, forced Napoleon III to move away from Mexico, leaving Maximilian to quit, where he would be later hanged by Mexican troops under the rule of Porfirio Díaz.

Napoleon III’s wish to extend France’s economic empire controlled the decision to take territorial dominion over the Central American zone. The port city of Veracruz, Mexico, and France’s wish to create a new canal was of special interest. Connecting both New World and East Asian trade routes to the mighty Atlantic was key to Napoleon III’s business goals to mining high-priced rocks and the extension of France’s textile industry.

Napoleon’s fear of the United States’ financial influence over the Pacific trade region, and in turn all New World business activity, pushed France to meddle in Mexico under the pretext of collecting on Mexico’s debt. Eventually, France launched plans to create the Panama Canal in 1881 CE until 1904 CE when the United States took over and continued with its implementation and construction.

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