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¡Andele, andele!… ¡yippa-yippa! Angostura/Buena Vista

5 July 2014

The battle of Battle of Angostura.. or Buena Vista as it’s better known in the United States (22-23 February 1847), was militarily inconclusive: depending on how you look at it, either the United States won, or it lost… ditto Mexico. The U.S. advance was halted, and — with their supply lines already stretched to the breaking point — on top of heavy casualties, it was seen as pyrric victory at the time: one that would break the invasion and force a withdrawal. The U.S. was forced to retreat and regroup. However, as Heriberto Frías, whose popular history of the U.S. war I’ve been editing, writes, any Mexican success (which faced the same problem with over-stretched supply lines and had much high casulties, although being on its own turf could more easily overcome those problems) was undone by the inexplicable decision of General Santa Ana to retreat after the battle.

Although the Mexican batteries held their own, their cannons were mostly surplus British equipment, left over from the Napoleonic Wars. What made Buena Vista celebrated in U.S. eyes was the battle’s symbol of U.S. technical superiority. To the people of the United States, the battle was something to celebrate, Yannkee ingenuity being, seen even then, as one of the things that justified the sense of opimism and moral superiority of the United States. New towns and counties in the expanding west (which at that time included places like Iowa and Minnesota) would be christened Buena Vista as a result, and the U.S. commander, Zachary Taylor would be headed for the White House.

buenavistaStill, Mexican ingenity created its own heroes, as Heriberto Frias celebrates in his “War Against The Gringos”:

After heavy rain that afternoon forced a temporary truce in the battle, both sides formed up again to continue fighting with more bloodshed. The Mexicans had not even returned to the charge and only the occasional cannon blasts could be heard, which the right-hand North American battery exchanged fire with our left, and one could see coming out of one of the dales, toward the road, a man on horseback, in peasant clothing, who rode at full gallop toward the enemy positions, making his way toward the battery which was firing at ours.

At first they believed that he must be some enemy scout who was returning to join his camp. He was seen coming up to their cannons and there, quickly, throwing into the air his lasso, which whirled, its loop reaching toward the center of the battery; but not having caught, he pulled it back and returned at full speed to the Mexican line, under a rain of bullets from the enemy marksmen, who had been stupefied by such daring.

Our side witnessed that act with great admiration. Who was that man?

Right away they knew, when he returned to the lines. It was an old insurgent named Villareal, who in his time had lent his services to the artillery, says a witness of his heroism, in the role of a conductor of munitions, with the rank of second sergeant.

Old Villareal, a good rider who in the war of independence had lassoed Spaniards, said that he had wanted to catch a Yankee in the loop of his rope, in order to not go without having done something on that great day.

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