When Emperor Maximilian and his Belgian bride arrived in Mexico in 1864, they came over the same route that the great Cortez had traveled in his conquest of the country for the House of Habsburg centuries before. The road was terrible and at one point was so bad that they had to get out and walk. When Maximilian asked one of the Mexican officers on his escort when the last time was that the road had been repaired, the man replied that it had never been repaired since being constructed. When Maximilian then asked when it had been constructed, the man replied that he could not remember as it had been built by the Spanish! In all the years since Mexican independence in 1821 the primary road from the capital to the coast had never once been maintained. Likewise, when Maximilian and Carlota arrived in the capital, the new Emperor had to spend his first night in the National Palace sleeping on a billiard table as he had been chased out of his bed by vermin. The place was so deteriorated because no one had ever lived in it long enough to undertake basic upkeep. It was for that reason that Maximilian decided to refurbish Chapultapec Castle and make that his primary residence.
The truth is that the French did much good in Mexico, not all good certainly, but a great deal more than they will ever get credit for and they allowed for the importation of Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlota who did a great deal themselves. The former Confederate naval officer turned Imperial Minister of Immigration, Matthew F. Maury, said that the industrious Belgian Empress Carlota could do more business in a day than all the Emperor's ministers combined could do in a week. She agreed and, given some knowledge of most of the Mexican Ministers the Emperor appointed, this may not have been much of an exaggeration at all. Unfortunately, it was not to last. The French were finally pressured into pulling out, after a heroic last stand the Emperor was captured and executed and soon Mexico reverted back to its prior state of power-struggles, banditry, corruption and poverty. All very sad, and unjust that the heroes are today portrayed as the villains. Yet, for a brief few years, thanks to the French, Emperor Maximilian had given Mexico a glimpse of what it could be, which is more than they have had since.