I was lucky to grow up in Arizona, near the border. As a child, I went to an almost all Mexican elementary school, grew up snacking on Mexican candy 24/7, and had an elotero man (corn man) on my street. I myself am as white as you can be, with pale skin and strawberry blonde hair, but I was never bullied and fit in extremely well at my elementary school. I am lucky to say that I was immersed in Mexican heritage growing up, so I know a bit more about it than others might — but I am always wanting to learn more.
Cinco De Mayo may be just another day for you to go get tacos and margs with the girls, but in reality, it is a holiday that means a lot and has become a commemoration of Mexican culture in the U.S. Today, we’re going to look at the origins of Cinco De Mayo and its significance.
Origins of Cinco De Mayo
Even though you may have heard that Cinco De Mayo is the Mexican Independence Day, that is incorrect. This holiday commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. It is also referred to as Battle of Puebla Day. Although this battle was “not a major strategic win in the overall war against the French,” the winning of this battle became a representation of victory and led to further resistance. In this battle, a Mexican army of 2,000 beat out a French army of 6,000, even though they were outnumbered.
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How is Cinco De Mayo Celebrated Today?
Surprisingly, most parts of Mexico, besides Puebla, do not really celebrate Cinco De Mayo as much as the United States does. In the U.S., Cinco De Mayo is celebrated as a time to commemorate and celebrate Mexican culture. The holiday is usually described as “a reminder that a grain of hope, no matter how small or insignificant to others can make the impossible…possible.” It is usually celebrated with the eating of traditional cuisine, like Mole Poblano, which is a thick, rich, chocolate-tinged sauce. On the 5th of May, there are usually parades, parties, mariachi music performances, and festivals to celebrate.
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Thanks to Mexico In My Kitchen for this recipe!
For the chicken:
– 1 Large chicken cut up in pieces
– About 8 cups of water
– 1 Small onion cut up in pieces
– 3 Garlic cloves
– Salt to taste
For the sauce:
– 6 Mulato peppers
– 4 Ancho peppers
– 6 Pasilla peppers
– 1 Tablespoon of reserved pepper seeds
– 6 Whole cloves
– ½ Teaspoon black peppercorn
– ¼ Teaspoon coriander seeds
– ¼ Teaspoonanises seeds
– ¾ Cup sesame seeds
– ¾ Inch of mexican cinnamon stick
– ½ Cup of raisins
– ⅓ Cup unskinned almonds
– ⅓ Cup peanuts
– 1 Corn tortilla
– 3 Small slices of french bread
– ⅓ Cup of raw pumpkin seeds
– ½ Small white onion sliced
– 2 Medium roasted tomatoes
– 3 Garlic gloves roasted
– ½ Large ripe dark-skinned plantain peeled, thickly sliced
– 1 Tablet of Mexican drinking Chocolate* About 3.1 ounces.
– The reserved broth from the cooked chicken.
– ½ Cup of oil or lard to fry the ingredients
– Salt to taste
1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until chicken is just cooked through, skimming foam, about 35 minutes. Transfer chicken to bowl; cover and chill. Strain and reserve broth in pot.
2. Prepare the peppers. Make sure to clean the dry peppers with a wet cloth and cut the peppers using your kitchen scissors if possible to flatten them for an even toasting.
3. Have a large pot ready with simmering chicken broth or water to soak all the ingredients after toasting or frying. They will get softer and easier to grind this way.
4. In a skillet toast the dry peppers a few at a time, on both sides, pressing them down as you turn them, until the inside flesh turns tobacco brown. This takes a few seconds, take care not to let them burn. Place the peppers and the chocolate in the bowl with the broth to soak. Keep toasting the rest of the peppers and placing them in the broth.
5. Meanwhile, toast separately the reserved peppers seeds, the coriander seeds, the anise seeds and sesame seeds. Set them aside to cool.
6. Grind in an electric coffee/spice grinder as finely as possible. Cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, and all the toasted ingredients except the sesame seeds. In case you do not have a grinder, but you have a professional blender skip this step and place the spices and seeds on the pot with the rest of the ingredients to be grinded in the blender.
7. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the sesame seeds for serving the mole; grind the rest as finely as possible. After this step add this mixture of spices and seeds to the bowl with the peppers.
8. Now, add a small portion of the lard or vegetable oil to a skillet and begin frying the following ingredients separately draining any excess fat after frying: the raisins until plump up, the almonds until well browned, the pumpkin seeds until they swell (take care, since they tend to explode and jump).
9. Every ingredient will be added to the pot with the chicken broth. You can roast the tomatoes and garlic cloves while frying the rest of the ingredients. Fry the onions until golden brown and place in the bowl.
10. Fry the tortilla and bread until crisp. Only add a little more lard at a time or it will be absorbed, specially by the tortilla and bread.
11. Add plantain and sauté until golden, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, drain excess fat and transfer to bowl. Make sure to use a ripe plantain.
12. This is the bowl where all the fried and toasted ingredients were placed and now are ready to go into the blender. It is going to look a little bit messy. Crush the bread and tortilla roughly, chop the tomatoes roasted tomatoes. This will make the grinding process a little bit easier.
13. Put ½ cup of the chicken broth into the blender jar, don’t forget to add peeled garlic. Gradually add the spice mixture and blend well; then add another ½ cup of broth and gradually blend the fried ingredients to a slightly fine paste. Try not to add more liquid (unless your blender motor is heating or smoking) but constantly release the blades with a rubber spatula. You will have to do this step in 2 or 3 batches until everything has been pureed. If the end results are still coarse, pass the whole mixture through a strainer.
14. In a large skillet over medium heat, reheat the sauce, scraping the bottom of the pan very often to avoid sticking. Season with salt.
15. Continue frying until the mixture is very thick, about 8 minutes, and stir. Add more broth as needed to desire thickness and continue cooking, the mixture should be bubbling and splattering—for about 25 minutes. By now pools of oil should be forming on the surface.
16. Add cooked chicken to hot mole; simmer until chicken is heated through, about 10 minutes. To serve, place a piece of chicken on a warm plate. Spoon on plenty of the mole sauce; sprinkle with sesame seeds. In Mexico, it is usually served with white rice with peas and a lot of warm tortillas.
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How Can I Celebrate Cinco de Mayo?
While there is nothing wrong with going out for Mexican food to celebrate the holiday, you should be careful to not cross any boundaries. First, you should eat at authentic small Mexican businesses nearby to show your support. If you are going out to eat a big chain, you really aren’t supporting Mexican businesses that would appreciate it much more.
I would also suggest that you refrain from dressing in traditional Mexican clothing like the wearing of ponchos or sombreros if you are not Mexican, because it is a form of cultural appropriation and it is not respectful. Cinco De Mayo is also a great time to reflect on if you have been contradicting yourself by taking advantage of Mexican culture and food while acting in ways that disrespect their heritage. Don’t disrespect the holiday by calling it “Cinco De Drinko” or using it as cute Instagram content.
Lastly, you need to remember that May 5th is not just an excuse for you to have a taco night, because it means so much more. As long as you are being deliberate and respectful, Cinco De Mayo is a very fun holiday to celebrate, no matter who you are.
How do you celebrate Cinco De Mayo? Let us know in the comments below!
For More On Cultural Appropriation And Holidays, Read These: