Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cinco de Mayo

A string of wars in the late 1800's left the Mexican Treasury nearly bankrupt prompting el Presidente of the time to impose a two year suspension on payment towards all foreign debts. The French took exception to this decision and sent naval forces to Mexico to collect on their debts.... and expand their Empire to Latin America. On May 5, 1862 French forces attacked the Mexican Army in the state of Puebla on their way to Mexico City. The Mexicans, outnumbered 2:1, surprisingly defeated the French who at the time were one of the best armies around. Despite the pride this accomplishment brought the Mexican people, the upset at the Battle of Puebla was not a major strategic victory. The French came back a year later with five times the amount of troops, defeated the Mexican army, seized control of Mexico City and established a new puppet emperor to rule Mexico.

Cinco de Mayo is often confused with Mexican Independence Day which occurred on September 16, 1810 and today is the most important national holiday in Mexico. Cinco de Mayo simply celebrates a stunning victory which was a rallying point for Mexican nationalism in the 1800s (and a minor speed bump for the French). Cinco de Mayo is not even an official Mexican holiday and is really only observed in the state Puebla and the US. 

There is nothing more American than a holiday, and in the century and a half since the fateful battle, Cinco de Mayo has been adopted by Americans of Mexican decent as a day to honor their country of ancestry and celebrate the culture of their homeland. The holiday was celebrated sparingly for decades, but picked up steam in 1940s during the rise of the Chicano movement. Cinco de Mayo really got going as a national observance in the 80's as marketers (I'm guessing an evil alliance between the Corona Corporation, Taco Bell, 'Big Agave' and the Sombrero producers of America) began selling Middle America on the idea that May 5th is a day to drink watery beer, eat tacos and pretend to be Mexican.

I hope the quick history lesson didn't burst your pinata on the idea of Cinco de Mayo. It is just like any other holiday: an excuse to get togeather with friends and family to eat some food and drink some drinks. So dust off that old sombrero from Halloween's past, head down to the bodega for a case of Corona and cook up some meat, beans, rice, cheese and tortilla in some combination, because on Thursday we all are a little Mexican.

Here are some of our favorite Mexican (and Mexican-like) recipes 

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