Gregorio Luke in Santa Ana

DOWNTOWN. Reputable go to lecturer on Mexican art Gregorio Luke came to the Artist’s Village on Friday, April 29th to discuss the history of La batalla de Puebla (The Battle of Puebla), most commonly known as Cinco de Mayo.

Luke provided a deep backstory to do the holiday its due justice, taking into account that as a practice in the States, it’s really just another reason to drink beer not unlike Saint Patrick’s Day. It would be extremely rare to have an in-depth discussion on the subject with well, anyone. Almost anyone.

Gregorio Luke lectures on the history of Cinco de Mayo. President Benito Juárez is shown on the projection.

Luke did an effective job of relating the events leading up to Cinco de Mayo on a global scale in relation to the United States, and Mexico’s creditors Spain, England and France.

It became apparent in the United States, for example, that it was not in its own interest to have the French in Mexico because of Napoleon’s expansionist agenda and interest in Louisiana. Indeed, ousted Mexican President Benito Juárez stayed in exile in New Orleans as a sign of cooperation and mutual interest between Mexico and the United States.

The invasion of Mexico by France started after President Benito Juárez declared a moratorium on Mexico’s foreign debt. This caused the three aforementioned European powers to prepare for invasion, but Spanish and English diplomats understood Napoleon’s ambition and interest and opted on not invading Mexico.

Luke enlivened the lecture with a number of rare and valuable anecdotes like Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza’s assertion that, “The liberation of France begins in Puebla,” and famed French writer Victor Hugo’s comment on the war, “It is not France that invades you, it is the empire.”

The Battle of Puebla did not change the tide of war. The country was eventually overrun by French forces and an imperial monarchy was installed, with Napoleon’s nephew Maximilian of Austria crowned as emperor. The Mexican Empire of Maximilian was short-lived as Republican forces under President Benito Juárez captured and sentenced Maximilian to a death squad.

Luke concluded with a moral lesson left by Benito Juárez, El respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz / Respect for the rights of others means peace.


Gregorio Luke is an expert on Mexican and Latin American art and culture. Mr. Luke has presented over 1,000 lectures in museums and universities throughout Mexico, Europe and the United States in institutions such as the Library of Congress, The Smithsonian Institution, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Art, and Universities such as Harvard, Columbia, UNAM and Georgetown, among others.

He is the former Director of the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, former Consul of Cultural Affairs of Mexico in Los Angeles and the First Secretary of the Embassy of Mexico in Washington D.C.

In 1995, Luke was honored with the Irving Leonard Award by the Hispanic Society of the Library of Congress. In 2005, The Ebell Club of Los Angeles honored him with a Life-time Achievement Award. In 2006, Luke received the El Angel Award by the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts and in 2007 he was recognized by CATE (California Association of Teacher’s in English) for promoting literacy in public schools.


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