The Battle of Puebla that took place on the 5th of May in 1862 holds little significance for us today. Many people think that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexico’s independence from Spain which, in fact, took place 41 years earlier and is celebrated on September 16. What you need to know for the purposes of this post is that what began as a regional victory celebration upon the Mexican Army’s surprising (albeit temporary) defeat of French forces in Puebla over a century ago is now a virtual symbol for Mexican pride and heritage.
Despite the unabashed commercialization of Cinco de Mayo, the day is an opportunity for Americans to share in the love of Mexican culture and tradition. For some of us, it is a moment in which to give ourselves over to the beauty and depth of our shared mexicanidad. To remember—perhaps even learn—about our history, both in Mexico and in the United States. This, more so than beer and tequila specials, is what draws people to the festivals around the country during the first week in May.
The holiday is an emblem of American diversity but also a cultural marker that buoys an increasingly diverse Mexican-American community. We are multi-generational, newly-arrived and assimilated, of mixed heritage, biracial, sometimes bilingual, sometimes not. Yet, we remain committed to a common culture and tethered to time-tested traditions every day of the year much like a nation that annually celebrates its independence but works daily to protect its democratic principles.
It is these sentiments that manifest in the art and music and dance so closely associated with Cinco de Mayo celebrations, examples of human expression and perseverance that stamp our arrival and affirm our sense of belonging. There is power in symbolism and celebration.
So, whatever your heritage, celebrate Cinco de Mayo!
Toast to the power of art, music and dance that defines a culture. Belt out a Lola Beltran ranchera or join a trio of mariachis for a serenade. Witness the glory of folklorico dancers whose elaborate dresses bloom color with every beat of beautiful music. Surrender to the rhythms of a spontaneous zapateado on your kitchen floor. Sip a margarita. Read a Laura Esquivel novel or a Gloria Anzaldúa poem. Write your own poem. Cook an authentic meal completely from scratch with your abuelita and invite your friends to dinner. Speak Spanish…or Spanglish.
Study the Chicano civil rights movement.
Honor the countless contributions and sacrifices that Mexican-Americans have made to and for the greater good—from the lawyers who litigated landmark civil rights cases in the 1950s to the men and women who served (and serve) in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Above all, remember the power of the people—not just those around you but also those who came before you.
- 1 cup milk
- 1¼ cup (150 g) all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- ¼ cup water
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
- 3 tablespoons butter (melted) and 1 tablespoon canola oil to combined to grease the crepe pan with a brush
- 1 cup cajeta de cabra or regular milk cajeta (can be bought at any store that sells hispanic products)
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- Optional: Mandarine or orange liqueur for ‘flaming’ the crepas.
- Throw all ingredients: milk, flour, eggs, water and melted butter in a blender and blend well.
- Refrigerate it for at least one hour.
- Heat the crepe skillet at medium high flame for 5 minutes.
- Dip a kitchen brush (pastry brush) into the melted and combined butter and oil and brush it (you must work quickly) across the hot skillet.
- With a ladle dip into the blender jar and pour onto the hot skillet, until it coats the entire bottom of the skillet; tilt it from side to side to get it even and pour our any excess.
- When the edges brown, unstick them with a spatula and then flip it to the other side.
- Cook the other side, this will brown quickly.
- Fold in four and place on a warmed plate.
- Butter the skillet again until you are finished with all the batter (you can adjust the heat if it gets too hot or too cold).
- Arrange folded crepes on individual plates, sprinkle the walnuts, and spoon the cajeta onto the plate over each crepa.
- If you like, pour orange or mandarine liqueur and ‘light’ the crepas for a flambé dessert.
***A version of this post originally appeared last year on DailyGrito.com. Post by Gilda Claudine. Photos and recipe by Gilda Valdez Carbonaro.