Ransacked Bakery Leads to a 'Pastry War' Between France and Mexico
In the history of pastries, the brief Pastry War between Mexico and France seems to go under the radar. A short conflict lasting less than four months between 1838-1839, it actually cost many Mexican and French lives. Whatsmore, it brought General Antonio López de Santa Anna out of retirement to lose his leg. And all because of the ransacking of a French patisserie. Let’s look at what happened.
The Pastry War occurred at a time of high tensions when certain interest groups were competing for control of Mexico. Destruction of property saw foreigners turn to their home governments for compensation as the Mexican government turned a blind eye. A certain Monsieur Remontel was one such foreigner who complained to King Louis-Philippe. The pastry chef claimed that his shop, just outside of Mexico City, was looted. By Mexican officers! While the value of the shop was less than 1,000 pesos, Remontel demanded 60,000 in reparations.
Considering this and other cases of destruction, the French prime minister, Louis-Mathieu Molé, demanded reparations from the Mexican government totalling 600,000 pesos. Mexican president Anastasio Bustamante refused. After all, the daily wage was close to 1 peso per day, and 600,000 pesos was a lot of money.
King Louis-Philippe commanded a blockade of all Mexican ports on the Gulf of Mexico. Then they bombarded the fortress of San Juan de Ulúa and eventually seized Veracruz. This was a big deal, as France was the third largest trading partner of Mexico at the time. Respected leader General Antonio López de Santa Anna brought it upon himself to come out of retirement to take stock of the damage. He was shot and survived, but at the cost of his leg!
A treaty between the two countries was soon signed to end the Pastry War, with Mexico agreeing to pay the sum of 600,000 pesos. But guess what? Mexico never did pay it; something that contributed to the 1861 French intervention in Mexico. The next chapter in the history of pastries saw Mexico triumphing in 1867 with no mention of Monsieur Remontel again. Fast forward to 1880 when the two countries resumed diplomatic relations forgetting any reparation claims from the past.
This is a good thing for pastry lovers who can enjoy both French pastries and French-Spanish influenced pan dulce like conchas. Let’s hope in the history of pastries, there’s only one Pastry War… because they’re too delicious to destroy.