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What You Need To Know Before Setting Foot In A Mexican Restaurant Today

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Happy Cinco de Mayo! It’s surprising to realize, considering the popularity of the holiday here in America, how little we actually know about Cinco de Mayo. I bet you’ll be really shocked to hear that the Crunch Wrap Supreme is not the traditional dish that the people of Mexico will be eating today to celebrate.

To avoid everyone enjoying their tacos and frozen margaritas in ignorance, we bring you a few traditional Cinco de Mayo dishes that you can whip up in honor of the holiday, as well as a little history on the holiday itself. You are going to be the smartest person at the bar tonight.

The History

Cinco de Mayo is not Independence Day in Mexico.

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Contrary to popular belief, the Mexican Independence Day is actually September 16th, not May 5th.  The 16th is remembered as the day the Mexican war for independence began against the Spanish government in 1810. For this reason, El Grito de la Independencia in September is a much more popular holiday in Mexico than Cinco de Mayo, which is not very enthusiastically celebrated nationwide.

May 5th is the day of the Battle of Puebla in 1862, during which the guerilla troops of General Ignacio Seguin Zaragoza fought off Napoleon’s troops during a French invasion in 1862. The battle for the town of Puebla was a victory for the Mexican soldiers, marking a positive turning point against the French invasion. Sadly, Mexican troops would go on to ultimately lose that war against the French the following year.

Los Angeles has the biggest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the world.

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Including the Mexican city of Puebla. That’s saying something. The party is called Fiesta Broadway and has been a huge celebration since the 1990’s. Most major streets in L.A. are blocked off to host hundreds of thousands of people celebrating Hispanic heritage with food, music, dancing, and crafts.

The popularity of Cinco de Mayo in America was started by FDR.

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In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted the “Good Neighbor Policy”, which was meant to improve relations with Latin American countries and communities. It was because of this policy that Cinco de Mayo began to pick up steam in the 1950’s and 60’s and eventually became a national holiday.

Bonus Fun Fact: To this day, historians argue whether or not Herbert Hoover or FDR coined the term for the policy. Either way, drinking to improve national relations is fine in our book.

Alcohol companies in the 1980s influenced the modern day Cinco de Mayo.

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Even as the holiday became a little more well-known in the 50’s and 60’s, it wasn’t until the 80’s that Cinco de Mayo really became a part of American culture. Or at least to the extent that we know it now. Beer companies in the 1980’s started commercializing the holiday when they saw a prime opportunity to increase sales with a new drinking holiday.

And it worked. Time Magazine now lists Cinco de Mayo as the 4th drunkest holiday in the U.S., all thanks to the clever beer moguls of the 80’s.

The Grub

Mole Poblano 

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Mole (pronounced like the second syllable of guacamole), is the Spanish translation of the Aztec word for sauce, mulli. This dish originated in Puebla  and is a combination of Spanish and old-world Mexican cuisine.

This Cinco de Mayo mole has a killer combination of both spicy and sweet, with the kick of fresh chilies and the richness of dark chocolate. This mole is traditionally served over boiled chicken or turkey and topped with sesame seeds.

Chiles en Nogada

Chilies en Nogada

This celebrated dish of Puebla was said to have been made in the convent of Santa Monica for the visit of Emperor Agustín de Iturbide in 1821. Agustín de Iturbide was Mexico’s first emperor after the country won its’ independence from Spain, so his visit was a pretty big deal to the small town of Puebla.

Decorated in the colors of the Mexican flag (red, green, and white), chilies en nogada is a sweet picadillo that has been stuffed with savory peppers, dipped in egg batter, fried, and then topped with a rich walnut sauce, pomegranate seeds, and parsley.  Having some people over for Cinco de Mayo? Skip the tacos — whip up this drool-worthy dish instead.

Chalupas

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We bet you’ve heard of this one before. Chalupas are a traditional street food of Puebla, dating back to when vendors would set up their stands outside of the Aztec temples to feed those who came to worship. The origin of the name is foggy, but most people tend to think the name is borrowed from the Aztec boats (also called chalupas) that were used in the city of Tenochtitlan.

If you’ve never indulged in a chalupa before, it’s basically a thick tortilla baked in two types of salsa and garnished with shredded chicken. This traditional street food is not difficult to make and will give you a whole new appreciation for Cinco de Mayo.

We hope that, in between tequila shots, you appreciate your new found historical knowledge of Cinco de Mayo. Now, go forth and bring us some chalupas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Tessa Newell

Tessa lives and writes in Sturbridge, Massachusetts where she hoards an obnoxiously large collection of scarves and puts queso cheese on everything she sees. Although she looks short and tiny, Tessa can eat several cheeseburgers in one sitting and will do anything for a spoonful of peanut butter. Or a whole jar, whichever.

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