Cinco de Mayo

My trip to and from Devine was mostly uneventful, except for the times I had to wait for a “follow me” truck, in the several areas that are under construction. It is a lot better than it was a couple of months ago, as they have completed some areas of construction. Nixon has to be the worst, as there is nine miles of construction from the small town of Pandora, TX to and through Nixon, ending up near the auction barn. The worst part is in the middle of town at the main intersection of two highways, they have it controlled with a four-way stop light and each one seems to be individually operated, in other words north and south do not go at the same time, nor do east and west, so it’s a pretty long light!
Of course, like always, I had a very good time while I was in Devine! Tuesday afternoon when I got there was pretty quiet and I rested up from the drive, but Wednesday we headed out to have a belated birthday lunch for me with my daughter’s sister-in-law at Castroville Café. Their food is always very plentiful and tasty! Then, back to the house to get ready for bunco, as my daughter was hostess. We served baked potatoes with many trimmings as well as salad and a delicious lemon dessert. Thursday was devoted to going to visit my Aunt (who will soon be 95 years old), and her daughter. We had my great-granddaughter with us and she had lots of loving attention and spoiling while we were there. When we left my Aunt’s home, it was on to Hondo to have lunch with my son. We decided to try a relatively new seafood restaurant there in Hondo. It was OK, but our consensus was that we had another place that was our favorite!
May is a month with more holidays/celebrations than many of our other months. First, we have May Day on May 1. It is not celebrated in our country as much as it is in other countries. In many places, it is celebrated with a show of military arms. In others, it is celebrated with parties, May poles and May baskets. In my grade school days, we made a May basket out of woven strips of construction paper for our mothers. When I was working at the nursing home, one of the aides, made each of us a May basket filled with tiny flowers and hung them on the doorknob of our office.
Last Friday evening as I was watching a game show on TV, they asked the question “What occasion does Cinco de Mayo celebrate?” the MC then gave the two contestants a choice of four occasions, including “The Battle of Puebla”, which was the correct answer, and this brings us to the next celebration in the month of May, and one that we will celebrate this week.
In many places, it is celebrated more than it is in our area.
Mother’s Day is the next celebration and this year it is on May 14th, which is not too far away, in fact, next week, I’ll try to tell you a little about its beginnings and give you some recipes to make for your Mother or someone you feel has helped “mother” you over time.
The last day of May that is a holiday is actually a national holiday and it is always celebrated the last Monday in the month. It is one of the holidays that fell to the “let’s give everyone a long weekend”, rather than on the 30th, which is truly Memorial Day!
Cinco de Mayo, is a day of celebration in much of the world. In San Antonio, there are sure to be some parties celebrating this day of victory for a small, ill-equipped militia, under the direction of Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin in 1862. His small group of about 3500 defeated a much better equipped and trained French troop of over 4500 in the battle of Puebla. This “Batalla de Puebla” came to represent a symbol of Mexican unity and patriotism.
The following is taken, in part, from an article entitled, “Cinco de Mayo” by Esmeralda Pulido that I found on the Internet. There was quite a lot of information and it included recipes and party ideas, some of which will follow.
It was on this day in 1862, that the Mexican army, for the first time, defeated the most feared French army of Napoleon III. He had been planning to take unconditional control over Mexico. Napoleon III observed how the Spaniards had controlled the land in colonial times and how they lost it. He had also seen the northern part of Mexico was later of great interest to the United States Emancipation plan. It was through the treaty of Guadalupe Hildago that Mexico lost one half of its territory. The government was split, headed by Zuloaga and another headed by Benito Juarez. Under these conditions, Napoleon III wanted the land even more. He, therefore, sent the Austrian, Ferdinand Maximilian, to take control (under Napoleon IIIs orders) as Emperor of Mexico.
Mexico was not willing to have any more colonizing and ruling from other Empires settling in the land. It was a time to fight back and be respected. All their gold and silver was under the Spanish power when they had first colonized the land.
President Juarez decreed that no man between the ages of 20 and 60 would be excused from taking up arms. He was determined not to lose his people’s land. He made it clear to the citizens that any traitors would be taken prisoner, and have his possessions confiscated by the State. He guaranteed to protect the lives and property of French citizens who lived in Mexico.
The French proclaimed General Almonte as president of the Republic of Mexico. Not all of the citizens of Mexico accepted him as President. Those who were loyal to their country still depended on their only president, Benito Juarez.
Juarez sent a warning to Napoleon III, who later denied receiving it. In it Juarez indicated that the citizens did not want a monarchy and did not want to be controlled by the French Empire. He also warned Napoleon III that if the nation’s sovereignty were attacked, the citizens would resist, and sooner or later freedom and justice would win. Napoleon took all of this as a joke because he did not recall his army back to France, but continued his aggression into Mexico City. On April 12, 1862, President Juarez had no other choice but to make his nation aware of the French invasion. He asked the people to support the Mexican army in the impending battle and to defend their independence. He reminded them that, in war, everyone suffered, but no type of misfortune was greater than the loss of freedom.
General Ignacio Zaragoza was appointed to gather forces at Puebla to defend Mexico City. Zaragoza and Juarez, as well as the French, knew that the only way to Mexico City was through Puebla. If the French were able to gain control of Puebla, Mexico would be in their hands. General Lorencez was put in charge of taking Puebla. In many instances he was informed that the citizens of Mexico were willing to accept the French in their land and that there was not going to be any combat at all once he reached Puebla. Lorencez had no idea that the inhabitants of Puebla were actually waiting for him.
Puebla had over 80,000 inhabitants and over 150 churches and was surrounded by a chain of five forts. Zaragoza had an army of about 6,000 men who were placed in the forts. The others were held in reserve in the city, where he had erected barricades in most of the streets.
He knew that at this time of the year, showers were to be expected frequently. The rains made the roads almost impossible to use, causing heavy cannons to get stuck on mountain roads. The hail storms would also make life miserable for the soldiers, and if there was an outbreak of disease, such as small pox or typhoid fever, this would also wreak havoc. The Mexicans knew their territory, which gave them a great advantage, in spite of the fact that they were short on supplies and weapons.
On May 3, 1862, Zaragoza arrived at Puebla and discussed with the citizens the possible tactics that the French would use. On May 4, Lorencez arrived at the village of Amozoc, a few miles north of Puebla. He did not know where to attack. Almonte advised him to attack from the west, and added that Puebla had never been taken from the north. Others advised Lorencez to attack from the north. The French army arrived near Puebla at 9:00 a.m., on May 5, 1862. Once there, Lorencez’s army was attacked by a small group of Mexicans. The French took a stand and realized that they were not going to be as welcome as they thought they would be. At 11:00 a.m., the battle of Cinco de Mayo began.
To get into the city of Puebla, the French army had to bring down the Fort of Guadalupe and also Fort Loreto, which was about half a mile away. For hours they kept advancing closer to the fort’s walls and did not seem to be doing any damage. After about an hour and a half of fighting, they had spent nearly half their ammunition, and the French infantry was sent in to capture the fort. They were under strong musket fire from the Mexicans in the fort, and from others sheltered by rising ground halfway between the two forts. The Mexican artillery in Fort Loreto was also turned on them.
Acting on orders from Zaragoza, Porfirio Diaz led a charge against the French infantry in front of the fort. That afternoon a heavy thunderstorm drenched the combatants, obscured visibility and made the ground slippery. Lorencez did not have a chance and he knew it. He was running out of weapons and losing soldiers. To save his army, he knew he had to retreat. At around 7:00 p.m., the French army retreated from Fort Guadalupe to a position at the foot of the hill and waited for a Mexican counter attack. The French erected their tents and spent the night listening to the Mexicans cheering and celebrating their victory by singing Mexican songs and the “Marseillaise”, which to the French was “our Marseillaise”. Lorencez waited for Zaragoza to make the next move, staying for two days in the city of Puebla. But, after seeing that Zaragoza was not coming, Napoleon’s army had to walk through the silent mountains, defeated, with 462 men and eight of their prisoners taken.
President Juarez decided to make the Battle of Puebla a holiday, along with Mexican Independence Day (September 16). The battle came to be known as the “Batalla de Puebla”, in which civilians of the poor Pueblo de Puebla defeated the great French army of Napoleon III.
With Fiesta just ending in San Antonio, I am sure you noticed the beautiful tissue paper or crepe paper flowers decorating the floats in the parade, but, did you know that they are relatively simple to make?
Tissue or crepe paper
Chenille stems in matching color (also called ‘pipe cleaners’)
Florist wire
Leaves (if desired)
Make a nice, neat stack of 6 pieces of colored tissue paper or crepe paper. For thicker, denser flowers, use 3 or 4 additional layers of paper.
Cut the stack into a 12-inch width. It can be any length– 12-inches or more if desired.
Accordian pleat the entire stack to make a fan. Secure the center of the fan with a wire twist tie or a piece of florist wire. Trim the ends with scissors. If you cut an arch shape, you will have a round flower. You can also use fancy scissors for ruffled edges. (Like the different edged scissors you would use in scrap-booking).
Bend the fan in half at the twist tie and separate each layer of tissue carefully, beginning with the outside and working your way in.
Add a stem made from a chenille stem in a matching color; add leaves or foliage if desired.
A 12-inch wide section of tissue paper will make a flower about 9-inches wide. Cut it narrower to make smaller, tighter flowers.
The following recipe was originally from TABASCO and is for a snack that is similar to a quesadilla, but it is called Sincronizadas, and this seems to mean sandwich!
2 tablespoons TABASCO brand Green Pepper Sauce (divided use)
12 flour tortillas
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese (divided use)
Thin sliced cooked ham, cut into ½-inch strips
2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
½ cup chopped (drained) tomato
¼ cup chopped cilantro.
Place six tortillas on flat surface and spread about ½-teaspoon of TABASCO® Green Pepper sauce on each.
Equally sprinkle one-cup of the cheese over the tortillas. Layer on the ham strips, avocado slices, chopped tomatoes, cilantro and remaining cup of cheese.
Spread one side of remaining six tortillas with remaining TABASCO® and place sauce side down on layered tortillas, forming sandwiches (sincronizadas).
On a griddle or in a medium sized skillet, cook sincronizadas, one at a time over medium heat, until tortillas are crisp and lightly browned on each side, and cheese is melted. Remove to a platter, cut into wedges and serve with additional sauce if desired.