The Pastry War

In 1838 a French pastry cook, Remontel, claimed that his shop in the Tacubaya district of Mexico City had been ruined by looting Mexican officers. He appealed to France's King Louis-Philippe for help in claiming compensation. France used his case as an excuse to send a message to Mexico for defaulting on other French loans. They demanded 600,000 pesos in damages for Remontel. This amount was extremely high: in comparison, an average workman's daily pay was about one peso. France gave Mexico an ultimatum to pay, or they would demand satisfaction. When the payment was not forthcoming from president Anastasio Bustamante, the French sent a fleet under Rear Admiral Charles Baudin to declare a blockade of all Mexican ports from Yucatan to the Rio Grande, to bombard the Mexican fortress of San Juan de Ulua, and to seize the port of Veracruz where virtually the entire Mexican Navy was captured in December 1838. Mexico declared war on France in retaliation.

With trade cut off, the Mexicans began smuggling imports into Corpus Christi, Texas, and then into Mexico. Fearing that France would blockade Texan ports as well, a battalion of men of the Republic of Texas force began patrolling Corpus Christi Bay to stop Mexican smugglers. The United States sent the schooner Woodbury to help the French in their blockade. Talks between the French Kingdom and the Texas occurred and France agreed not to offend the soil or waters of the Republic of Texas.

It took the diplomatic intervention of Great Britain to help resolve the crisis. Eventually President Bustamante promised to pay the 600,000 pesos and the French forces withdrew on 9 March 1839.

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by Stephen Luscombe