Thursday, May 5, 2011
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Contrary to popular opinion, May 5 is NOT Mexican Independence Day. THAT day is actually September 16, and it came about largely due to the efforts of a Catholic priest named Father Hidalgo.
However, May 5th DOES mark the day that 4500 poorly equipped men of the Mexican militia scored an important victory against 6500 well-equipped men of the French army in the Battle of Puebla in 1862, roughly 41 years after Mexico won independence from Spain.
In the years following its independence from Spain, Mexico’s territory expanded greatly, and just prior to the Mexican-American War of 1846, the country of Mexico looked like this:
By the time the Mexican Civil War ended in 1858, Mexico had significant foreign debt. In addition to Spain, Mexico also owed a large amount of money to England and France. By 1862, France was eager to expand its empire, so the French decided to invade Mexico in order to get their money back. When Spain and England heard about France’s plans to invade Mexico, they decided to withdraw their support of Mexico. President Lincoln WAS sympathetic to the Mexican cause, but the attack of Fort Sumter had occurred a year earlier, which made it impossible to provide any aid to Mexico.
Today, Cinco de Mayo seems to be as big a day in America as it is in Mexico, particularly along the U.S.- Mexico border. Just as there are suddenly a lot of people talking with a brogue on March 17th, there’s a large number of Americans drinking either Corona or Tequila on May 5.
A variation of tequila (called octi) was produced by the Aztec people long before the Spanish invasion of 1521, Other variations of liquid made form the agave plant followed, but it wasn’t until the early 19th century that a modern version of tequila was first produced in Guadalajara, Mexico.
One of my worst hangovers ever resulted from too many Coronas AND too many shots of tequila at a Cinco de Mayo party about 20 years ago, so I drink it infrequently, even today.
Tonight, though, the gastronomical pairing of a chicken enchilada casserole and roasted spiced cauliflower will be accompanied by at least one margarita made from Jose Cuervo Gold. If I get too carried away, I’ll be playing the song below repeatedly until the sandman comes for his nightly visit:
the original version, released by The Champs on March 17, 1958.