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May 5, 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 @ 11:05 AM
posted by: Karen Jean Matsko Hood

Good Morning and Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Frost this morning, so still a little early for plants in the garden.  It always can get a lot worse, we could live in Nashville, or the Gulf coast.  My heart goes out to all of those people.

I am looking forward to Cinco de Mayo dinner with my family tonight.

I thought you might be interested in this brief history of Cinco de Mayo:

This is one holiday that is always easy to remember.  The Spanish name means simply “Fifth of May.”  But exactly what does this holiday commemorate?  The Latin flavored celebrations in most cities can hardly go unnoticed.  Let’s start, as all good investigations do, in history.

Though many Americans mistakenly believe that Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican equivalent of the Fourth of July, it actually commemorates a liberation of a different kind.  On May 4, 1862, a French occupying force under Napoleon III  sought to overthrow the smaller and more primitive Mexican army near Puebla, Mexico, about 100 miles east of Mexico City.  They had come, along with the since departed English and Spanish troops, to collect debts from the newly formed democratic Mexican government.  Though frequently coming to Mexico’s aide in the past, the United States was deeply entrenched in its own civil war.

Due in part to a costly blunder by the formidable French cavalry, the Mexicans, under the command of Texas-born General Zaragosa, were victorious.  As dawn broke on the morning of May 5th, the French troops had been driven back and Mexico was spared the tyranny of a Hapsburg prince.  And so it is on the fifth of May each year that the Mexican people celebrate their freedom.  Not unlike July 4th, 1776, the holiday celebrates independence on a day when it was not gained; it commemorates a declaration of liberty.  In celebrations similar to our own Independence Day, they celebrate all that it means to be Mexican and remember those who have fought bravely on their behalf.

A typical Cinco de Mayo celebration includes traditional Mexican music, food, and dance.  Those celebrating the holiday do so with a fervor akin to that of their ancestors as they drove away their French oppressors.  Mexican symbols like the Virgen de Guadalupe and Cesar Chavez take their positions on banners and signs and herald the pride of the Mexican people.  Schoolchildren study the meaning of the holiday in class and, when they are older, the history of the Battle of Puebla in 1862.  Teachers and students organize art galleries and craft projects to honor the traditions surrounding Cinco de Mayo.  All in all, the celebration is filled with pride and patriotism.

One well-known Cinco de Mayo celebration in Spokane is at Casa de Oro restaurant.  Or if entertaining is more your taste, invite the family over and try this homemade recipe for Menudo.

So if you are proud of your own Mexican heritage, or you simply choose to celebrate the cultural pride, enjoy the holiday and remember those who have fought for freedom around the world and across the ages.  Visit the “Hispanic Foods” aisle at your local grocery store and try something new!

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