Creating Your Own Fiesta Feast!

images (8)As we say farewell to April Showers and turn our attention to May Flowers; the first of the May “Feast” day is just beyond the horizon. Cinco de Mayo –  the 5th of May. Some people think this date equates to America’s 4th of July. While I knew it wasn’t Mexico’s Independence Day, I did not know the real history of the date. How is it that so many people celebrate “holidays” without knowing the history or significance of the day? I know I’m guilty of celebrating Cinco de Mayo with a feast of tacos, Margaritas and a host of other things without knowing why. Living in California, a state that once belonged to Mexico, with a large Mexican population, you would think I might have some idea of the history. This was an error I intended to correct . . .

In 1861 the liberal Mexican Benito Juárez (1806-1872) became president of a country in financial ruin, and he was forced to default on his debts to European governments. In response, France, Britain and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew, but France, ruled by Napoleon III (1808-1873), decided to use the opportunity to carve a dependent empire out of Mexican territory. Late in 1861, a well-armed French fleet stormed Veracruz, landing a large French force and driving President Juárez and his government into retreat.

Certain that success would come swiftly, 6,000 French troops under General Charles Latrille de Lorencez (1814-1892) set out to attack Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico. From his new headquarters in the north, Juárez rounded up a rag-tag force of 2,000 loyal men—many of them either indigenous Mexicans or of mixed ancestry—and sent them to Puebla. Led by Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza (1829-1862), the vastly outnumbered and poorly supplied Mexicans fortified the town and prepared for the French assault. On May 5, 1862, Lorencez drew his army, well provisioned and supported by heavy artillery, before the city of Puebla and led an assault from the north. The battle lasted from daybreak to early evening, and when the French finally retreated they had lost nearly 500 soldiers. Fewer than 100 Mexicans had been killed in the clash. Although not a major strategic win in the overall war against the French, Zaragoza’s success at Puebla represented a great symbolic victory for the Mexican government and bolstered the resistance movement.

It is interesting to note that within Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is primarily observed in the state of Puebla, where Zaragoza’s unlikely triumph occurred, although other parts of the country also take part in the celebration. Traditions include military parades, recreations of the Battle of Puebla and other festive events. For many Mexicans, however, May 5 is a day like any other: It is not a federal holiday, so offices, banks and stores remain open. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is widely interpreted as a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with substantial Mexican-American populations.

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With that in mind, I offer for your consideration links to my Mexican-American dishes. Be it a block party celebration or an excuse to gather friends and family together in “celebration”, these dishes can be combined to create a feast to end all feasts. As we do so, let us honor the Mexican culture that is vast, rich and beautiful. All reasons to celebrate!

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Beef:

New Mexican Filet Mignon

New Mexican Filet Mignon

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Chicken:

Chicken Santa Fe (2)

Chicken Santa Fe

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Pork:

Mexican Pork Chops with Ancho Chile Cornbread Stuffing & Mexican Style Corn 12-17-2012

Mexican Pork Chops with Ancho Chile Cornbread Stuffing & Mexican Style Corn

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Side Suggestions:

Spanish Rice

Spicy Spanish Rice

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Can’t make up your mind? Here are a few menus ideas complete with recipes:

Cinco de Mayo Three Course Celebration 

Cinco De Mayo Feast

2 thoughts on “Creating Your Own Fiesta Feast!

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