VERACRUZ, Mexico – At the top of Cerro del Borrego (Borrego mountain) in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, Mexico, a group of young men reenact the moment French soldiers massacred a battalion of some 700-2,000 Mexican soldiers, most of whom were sleeping, to the shock of the audience.
Two men, one wearing a French army redcoat and the other a Mexican army full dress uniform, are among the actors interpreting that tragic night in 1862, an episode of the second French intervention in Mexico that is close to being forgotten.
A little over a month after Mexican troops were bathed in glory for defeating the French in Puebla on May 5, death and defeat came to Cerro del Borrego, a mountain on the eastern edge of the town of Orizaba.
“Almost nobody pays tribute to those dead soldiers who were defending their country ... We are trying to honor those men,” drama teacher Jose Miguel Conde said, who helps reenact the June 13 massacre with a group of young actors.
One of the actors interprets Gen. Jesus Gonzalez Ortega, who received orders from Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza – a hero of the May 5 Puebla battle – to move his battalion to Cerro del Borrego to attempt to expel the French army.
It is thought that a traitor among the ranks of the Mexican army gave the exact location of Gonzalez’s battalion to the French, who surprised and massacred the Mexican soldiers at 1:30 am, when most were sleeping.
“Between 700 and 2,000 of our soldiers died because of treason,” the drama teacher said.
The massacre was a severe blow, destroying the last opportunity for the Mexican army to put an end to the intervention, as French reinforcements soon arrived.
Less than a year later, on March 16, 1863, 30,000 French troops took Puebla.
Cerro del Borrego is now a protected area, where visitors can enjoy the old fort, a museum, hiking trails, as well as riding on a cable car connecting the top of the mountain to downtown Orizaba.