THIS MONTH IN COFFEE TALK

MAY 2019

This is the third issue of Coffee Talk online, published monthly on the first of the month, now featuring some of the articles in Spanish as well as English. Articles from months past can be found in the Archives. Thanks for stopping by. I would love to hear from you with a like, a comment, a question or a suggestion. Happy Month of May!

BEYOND BORDERS

WHEN IS CINCO DE MAYO ANYHOW?

A PROPÓSITO, ¿CUÁNDO ES EL CINCO DE MAYO?

The evolution of Cinco de Mayo from a minor Mexican patriotic recognition of the Battle of Puebla into an out-of-control United States-Chicano-Latino drink-fest is puzzling to people who live in Mexico, where the battle took place.

JOANNA C. COOKE OPENS EYES AND HEARTS IN PUERTO MORELOS

JOANNA C. COOKE ABRE OJOS Y CORAZONES EN PUERTO MORELOS

GALLERY OF PAINTINGS BY JOANNA C. COOKE

Joanna C. Cooke believes in re-purposing discarded things to create new and beautiful objects. Originally from British Columbia, Canada, this gifted artist/ healer now makes her home and shares her skills and wisdom in Puerto Morelos, Mexico.

MY WINDOW ON THE WORLD

ACCIDENTAL MINIMALIST: NANA HAD A TINY HOUSE WHEN TINY HOUSES WERE NOT A THING

It was a tiny house in spirit and square-footage if not in style or name. The twenty-first century terms minimalism and tiny house were far in the future, but my grandmother was already living the lifestyle.

HOME COOKING

THE MAGIC OF BREAD

Baking bread is a perfect way to revive an ancient tradition on a leisurely afternoon. Here are a few recipes for small quantities of yeasty delights made from scratch and by hand–one loaf or enough rolls for a small family.

PATHS TO BETTER LIVING

FENDING OFF MOCTUZEMA AND OTHER BIOTIC AVENGERS

If it happens in the country where you live, you have an upset stomach. If you are in Mexico, it is Moctezuma’s Revenge, also known as turista.

POETRY CORNER

maggie and milly and molly and may by e. e. cummings


BUSINESSES * SERVICES * EVENTS

ELITE PERFORMANCE CHIROPRACTIC, McKINNEY, TEXAS

ZINGARA ARTE EXPERIENCES IN PUERTO MORELOS, QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO

ZINGARA ARTE ON FACEBOOK

If you want to link your business, service or event under BUSINESSES * SERVICES * EVENTS, send a message by way of CONTACT. Approved listings will be FREE THROUGH DECEMBER 2019 with no obligation.

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PAINTINGS BY JOANNA C. COOKE, PUERTO MORELOS, QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO

SERENITY AT SUNRISE, ACRYLIC ON STRETCHED CANVAS, 9″ X 12″, DONATED

GIFTS OF LIGHT, ACRYLIC WITH GOLD LEAF ON STRETCHED CANVAS, 16″ X 20″, AVAILABLE PRIVATELY

ETHER – METALLIC SERIES I, ACRYLIC ON STRETCHED CANVAS, 40 cm x 50 cm, AVAILABLE AT EL NICHO RESTAURANTE

BUDDHA BLISS, ACRYLIC ON STRETCHED CANVAS, 14″ x 18″, AVAILABLE AT EL NICHO RESTAURANTE

DANCE OF THE DRAGONFLIES, ACRYLIC/ PLASTER ON STRETCHED CANVAS, 60 cm x 100 cm, SOLD

FLIGHT OF THE LOTUS, ACRYLIC WITH RHINESTONE JEWELS ON STRETCHED GALLERY CANVAS, 12″ x 6″, AVAILABLE AT EL NICHO RESTAURANTE

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JOANNA C COOKE OPENS EYES AND HEARTS IN PUERTO MORELOS

ESPAÑOL

“Shipwrecked” by Joanna C. Cooke

Joanna C. Cooke says, “I am a passionate artist who believes in re-using and up-scaling outdated things people get rid of to create new and beautiful projects.”

Joanna is a Canadian artist who now makes her home in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. “Some challenging experiences gave me a greater knowledge of what life is about and taught me to follow my dreams and never give up,” she adds. Joanna describes her early life on Canada’s west coast in British Columbia as that of a “fairly untamed, creative beach baby.” She envisions making a more beautiful world, re-created in part from objects that people discard. She shares that vision in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, where for the past decade she says she has “found a place where her heart, soul, body and mind flourish and yearn to be.”

She continues, “My work with the Shamans as a Solar Initiate of the Itza Maya is very profound and has left an impact of the greater wisdom of the cosmic universe and knowledge of the ancients. My studies as a Mayan Day Keeper (keeping track of the days of the Maya calendar) for close to 15 years has gifted  me with a resonance to the stars, a deeper connection to all living beings, plant, mineral, human, animal, earth sky and water, and myself.” Sacred Geometry is a common thread of Joanna’s work in familiar forms like sunflowers, as well as abstract complex geometric designs. She finds inspiration in “the mystery of the ocean, the warmth of the sun, and the light of the stars and moon in the night skies.”

Her formal education includes Color Therapy and Crystal Therapy. She mentored with Canadian artists James Picard and Robert Genn, and studied at San Miguel de Allende and Langara College. At Vancouver Community College she learned jewelry design and goldsmithing.

Her paintings and art installations have been exhibited in Canada, Mexico, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United States. Her labyrinth work was featured on HGTV’s “That’s Clever” and in an article in “Labyrinths of British Columbia–A Guide for Your Journey.”

I joined Joanna and an enthusiastic group of women one balmy Tuesday afternoon at La Sirena Restaurant. A long table, set with easels and canvases was ready for us on the restaurant balcony with a view of the turquoise water of the Caribbean. She provided brushes, paint, water and a painting for inspiration. The restaurant served cocktails and wine. With Joanna’s gentle encouragement and as much or little instruction as we wanted, each of us produced something that looked a little like her professional rendering of the lopsided lighthouse, icon of Puerto Morelos. The damaged lighthouse commemorates the fishing village’s “Never Give Up” spirit after Hurricane Beulah almost erased it from the map in 1967. We relaxed bodies, minds, and spirits, focusing on the magic of paint, brushes, canvases, and our own hands to create beautiful and satisfying shapes and colors.

Artsy Cocktails is just one of the many ways that Joanna C. Cooke shares her gifts and insights in the Riviera Maya. She offers classes, workshops, retreats, private sessions, 3D installations, and collaborative projects. Her long-term visions and goals include the creation of an Artists’ Retreat Center in Puerto Morelos with a focus on healing and learning to re-use resources. A limited number of her paintings are displayed and available for purchase at El Nicho and Chilpayas restaurants. Her future plans include creating functional and decorative home art from garbage and beach finds for a gallery space opening soon in Puerto Morelos. and leading a community project to create a house in the jungle using only garbage.

JEWEL OF THE MUDRA by Joanna C. Cooke

Joanna says she has been brought to Puerto Morelos “as if by a hand of fate over the past decade.” I wonder if that hand of fate brought me to the balcony of La Sirena Restaurant on a balmy Tuesday afternoon.


See more about Joanna C Cooke at

JOANNA C. COOKE

https://www.facebook.com/artfortheaestheticsoul/

https://www.facebook.com/zingarartexperience/

https://sites.google.com/site/joannaccooke/home

Gallery

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JOANNA C COOKE ABRE OJOS Y CORAZONES EN PUERTO MORELOS

ENGLISH

“Naufragio” por Joanna C. Cooke

“Soy una artista apasionada. Creo en el uso de objetos descartados para crear cosa nuevas y hermosas,” dice Joanna C. Cooke.

Joanna C. Cooke es una artista canadiense quien hoy en día vive en Puerto Morelos, México. “Algunos desafíos en la vida me hicieron ver con mas claridad el sentido de a vida y me ensenaron que debo seguir mis sueños y nunca rendirme.” Describe su infancia en la costa oeste de Canadá como la de “una niña de playa no muy domada.” Su visión es de un mundo más hermoso recreado en parte de cosas que la gente suele tirar a la basura. Comparte su visión en Puerto Morelos, México, donde por una década ella dice que ha “encontrado un lugar donde mi corazón, alma, cuerpo y mente florecen y añoran estar.”

“Mi trabajo con los Samanes como Iniciada Solar de los Maya Itzá es muy profundo,” sigue, “y ha dejado un impacto de la sabiduría mayor del universo cósmico y de conocimiento de los antepasados. Mis estudios como Guardadora de Días Maya (siguiendo los días del calendario maya) durante casi 15 anos me ha otorgado resonancia a las estrellas y un nexo más profundo a todos los seres vivientes, plantas, minerales, humanos, animales, tierra, cielo, agua, y a mi misma.” La Geometría Sagrada es un hilo común en el trabajo de Joanna, manifestándose tanto en formas conocidas como el girasol como en diseños geométricos complejos. Joanna se inspira en “el misterio del mar, el calor del sol, y la luz de las estrellas y la luna en el cielo nocturno.”

Sus estudios formales incluyen Terapia de Color y Terapia de Cristales. Sus mentores son James Picard y Robert Genn, artistas canadienses. También estudio en San Miguel de Allende y Langara College. Aprendió diseño de joyería y orfebrería en Vancouver Community College.

Sus pinturas y construcciones artísticos se han exhibido en Canadá, México, Japón, Holanda, Suiza, y los Estados Unidos. Sus laberintos se presentaron en el programa “That’s Clever” de HGTV y en un artículo en “Labyrinths of British Columbia–A Guide for Your Journey.”

Me reuní con Joanna y un grupo entusiasta de mujeres en La Sirena Restaurante un martes tropical. Ya estaba preparada una mesa larga con caballetes y lonas en el balcón del restaurante con vista de las aguas turquesas del Caribe. Joanna nos proporcionaba pintura, pinceles, agua, y una pintura para copiar o para inspiración. Nos sirvieron vino y cocteles. Con la mano suave de nuestra maestra y cuanta instrucción deseábamos, todas terminamos con algo que parecía cuando menos un poco al imagen profesional del faro chueco, símbolo de Puerto Morelos. El faro dañado conmemora el espíritu de “Nunca rendirse” del pueblo de pescadores cuando el Huracán Beulah casi lo borra del mapa en 1967. Las participantes nos relajamos en cuerpo, mente, y espíritu, enfocándonos en la magia de pintura, pinceles, lonas, y nuestras propias manos para crear formas y colores hermosos y satisfactorios.

Artsy Cocktails (Cocteles Artísticos) es solamente una de las muchas maneras en que Joanna C. Cooke comparte sus dones y sabiduría en la Riviera Maya. Ofrece clases, talleres, retiros, sesiones particulares, instalaciones de tres dimensiones, y proyectos colaborativos. Su visión y sus metas a largo plazo incluyen la creación de un Centro de Retiro para Artistas en Puerto Morelos con un enfoque en salud y en usar cosas descartadas en nuevas formas. Un numero limitado de sus pinturas se exhiben y se pueden comprar en los restaurantes El Nicho y Chilpayas. Sus planes para el futuro incluyen la creación de arte funcional y decorativo para el hogar, utilizando basura y cosas encontradas en la playa. Este arte se podrá ver en una galería que está próxima a abrir en Puerto Morelos. También tiene en la mira un proyecto comunitario para crear una casa en la selva utilizando basura solamente.

Joanna dice que una mano del destino la ha traído a Puerto Morelos durante la década pasada. Yo me pregunto si esa mano del destino fue la que me trajo al balcón de La Sirena un martes cálido por la tarde.


JEWEL OF THE MUDRA por Joanna C. Cooke


Mas acerca de Joanna C Cooke

JOANNA C. COOKE

https://www.facebook.com/artfortheaestheticsoul/

https://www.facebook.com/zingarartexperience/

https://sites.google.com/site/joannaccooke/home

Galeria

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ACCIDENTAL MINIMALIST

NANA HAD A TINY HOUSE WHEN TINY HOUSES WERE NOT A THING

It was a tiny house in spirit and square-footage if not in style or name, an old-fashioned shotgun house with a few additions. Nana’s house didn’t have a loft, but it had a sunny built-on bedroom with windows on three sides, a beautiful hand-made quilt on the bed, and the foot-pedal sewing machine where she stitched patches together to make more quilts

I remember a flushing toilet and claw-foot bathtub with hot and cold running water in what had once been an alcove, but Mama had memories of Nana’s original “composting” toilet, an old-fashioned outhouse, and of water heated in a kettle on the kitchen stove to pour into a big round galvanized tub moved temporarily into the warm kitchen for a bath. There was no room for a lavatory in the updated bathroom. We brushed our teeth and washed our hands and faces at the kitchen sink made of concrete and with the plainest of faucets, like a sink you might find in a workshop.

The sink had a crude shelf underneath. Nana had fashioned a red checked curtain to hide the supplies on that shelf. A Formica table, four mismatched chairs, a narrow four-burner stove and oven, a very shallow cupboard, and an icebox completed the kitchen furnishings. The icebox was a porcelain-lined wooden box with handles on the top and bottom sections, and a large draining pan underneath. A big block of ice, delivered regularly from the Ice Man’s truck, prompted by a sign in the window showing how many pounds the householder wanted, was loaded into the top compartment. It cooled a few perishable things that could then be placed into the bottom section. As the ice melted, the water drained into the pan, which had to be emptied regularly. I was a teenager when Nana got a small electric refrigerator, a castoff from her daughter, Aunt Dorothy.

Three or four print dresses with matching belts hung in the tiny closet between the living room and the kitchen, and her pretty nightgown and robe were handy on a nail just inside the closet door. The dresses were always clean and pressed, and she complemented her outfits with small gold hoops in her pierced ears and a strand of faux pearls for a really special occasion. Her sturdy grandma dress-up shoes were clean and polished, and the slippers and old gardening shoes she wore around the house were comfortable and serviceable.



A summer gathering on Nana’s porch. Nana is in the background at left.


The whole house was as cheerful and welcoming as Nana herself. A gas heater in the living room kept it warm and cozy in cold weather. Open doors and windows and a couple of electric fans made the Texas heat tolerable. Outside, there was a tree to climb, Nana’s carefully-tended flowers to enjoy, plenty of dirt and battered discarded kitchen utensils to make mud pies, and a porch with metal chairs where neighbors were invited to share watermelon and cantaloupe or to just sit and visit.

When my cousins and I slept over, the youngest was privileged to share Nana’s double bed in her cozy bedroom. The rest of us were comfortably tucked into a roll-away bed pulled magically out of her TV cabinet, or the fold-down living-room couch, or improvised pallets on the floor, padded with extra blankets. In warm weather, the older cousins were allowed to take our pallets out to the porch.

We thought of Nana as kind of poor, living as she did with the help of her daughters, a little spare change from baby-sitting or ironing, and a monthly Social Security check for eighty-five dollars, but she always had what she needed plus something to share—a patchwork quilt, a hand-embroidered dishtowel, a jar of homemade plum preserves. She never complained, and she never talked about things she wanted to buy.

My other grandmother lived in a big house with an air conditioner and beautiful furniture, rugs, and curtains. There were fireplaces in the living room, dining room, and all the bedrooms. The big front porch had a porch swing, and her grand kitchen contained a deep-freeze and all the latest appliances, but Nana’s house was where I wanted to be. My other grandmother was deeply unhappy, a hypochondriac who spent most of her days in bed. Her house, though elegant and spacious, was dark and uninviting. I don’t remember ever seeing a fire in any of the fireplaces, even at Christmas or on the coldest days of the year.

Minimalism was not a word used to describe anyone’s lifestyle. We saw the world in terms of prosperity or poverty. Advertisements on billboards and TV assured us that happiness was just over the horizon after our next purchase, but I couldn’t help wondering why my Nana, who had so little, was the happiest person in my family.

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PATHS TO BETTER LIVING

FENDING OFF MOCTEZUMA AND OTHER BIOTIC AVENGERS

If it happens in the country where you live, you have an upset stomach. If you are in Mexico, it is Moctezuma’s Revenge, also known as turista. Experiencing new foods, some of them grown with classic compost (aka “caca”), travel nerves and excitement, and adjustments in your normal intestinal flora and fauna can leave you vulnerable to bacteria that are everywhere, especially on fresh fruits and vegetables.

My Mexican mother-in-law taught me how to clean fruits and vegetables to cut down on some of that bacteria. The truth is, even if you’re not vacationing or adjusting to life in a foreign country, you should be careful with all food, especially if it’s fresh. From time to time, there are warnings in the United States about contaminated foods, with accompanying admonitions to be sure to wash your lettuce, strawberries, or whatever. That admonition should not be necessary. Purifying your fruits and vegetables should be as habitual as brushing your teeth–maybe more so.

In addition to the age-old germs, modern agriculture has further contaminated our foods with pesticides and waxy enhancers. A healthy immune system is the best defense against all kinds of illnesses, but some germs and chemicals are strong enough to break through even a healthy system, so it is wise to do what you can to keep them at bay.

  1. Wash your hands often, but certainly before you handle food.
  2. If you are going to eat raw fruit or vegetables like apples, pears, or cucumbers, peeling and all, rinse in lukewarm water to soften up wax enhancers, then scrub well with a vegetable brush and rinse again in tap water. It is usually not necessary to use detergent or other cleaning agents. If I’m very concerned about contaminants, I just peel them. Some good fiber and nutrients are lost, so it’s a toss-up.
  3. If you are going to peel or cook fruits and vegetables, a good rinse is enough to get rid of surface dirt. If you are peeling a banana or a tangerine, remember that you can contaminate the edible part with your hands. Using a brush for gritty foods like potatoes or carrots is a good idea to get rid of plain old dirt that might cling to them. Cooking will kill the bacteria.
  4. If you are cutting something with a knife, like an avocado, cantaloupe or watermelon, rinse the outside well, and be sure the knife and cutting board are clean.
  5. Opinions vary about the best way to purify porous foods that are eaten as they are: lettuce, celery, all kinds of berries, especially strawberries, and so on. My choice is this: rinse, soak for at least five minutes in a solution of water with a tablespoon or two of white vinegar or lemon juice, rinse again, preferably with bottled water if you don’t drink water from the tap. I have seen recommendations for baking soda as well as salt for the soaking process, but I haven’t tried them. Vinegar has worked well for me for a long time.
  6. Always be careful to clean and sterilize surfaces and utensils that have been in contact with raw meat of any kind before cleaning or peeling fruits and vegetables with them.

No one wants to live in a sterile bubble, avoid travel, and never taste anything new or different, so you are sure to have a tummy ache once in awhile, but if you live healthily and take these precautions, you can keep sick days at a minimum.

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HOME COOKING

THE MAGIC OF BREAD

Five simple ingredients—flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and water. With strong hands, a little patience, and some heat, your life is full of a wonderful, magical aroma for awhile. Here are a few basic recipes for small quantities of yeasty delights made from scratch and by hand–one loaf or enough rolls for a small family. It’s a perfect way to revive an ancient tradition on a lazy, rainy afternoon.

Experiment with kneading time and technique, amount of flour, and shaping until it turns out like you want it. If you want a bigger batch, you can double or triple the amounts.

BASIC BREAD:

Mix 1 T (OR 1 PACKAGE) DRY YEAST with 1 c LUKEWARM WATER and 1 T SUGAR. Let it set for 10-15 minutes until bubbles form all over the surface. Add 1 t salt and approximately 2 c flour, enough to make a sticky dough. Knead until smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size, about 1 hour. Punch down and shape into loaf, baguette or rolls. Cover and let rise again until double, about 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees F until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

TRADITIONAL WHITE BREAD:

Add 1 T OIL or 1 T SOFTENED BUTTER and 1 T SUGAR before adding the flour.

ROLLS:

Add 2 T SOFTENED BUTTER and 2 T SUGAR to Basic Bread recipe.

ITALIAN HERB BREAD:

Add 1 T OLIVE OIL and 1/3 t each of DRIED BASIL, DRIED OREGANO, GARLIC POWDER, and GARLIC SALT, plus 2 T GRATED ROMANO CHEESE.

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POETRY CORNER

maggie and milly and molly and may

maggie and milly and molly and may

went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang

so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star

whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing

which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone

as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

e. e. cummings (1894-1962)

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COMIDA CASERA

LA MAGIA DEL PAN

Cinco ingredientes sencillos—harina de trigo, levadura, sal, azucar, y agua. Con manos fuertes, un poco de paciencia, y algo de calor, su vida se llena de una aroma mágico y maravilloso. A continuación, unas recetas para hacer cantidades pequeñas de pan para deleitarse, hechos a mano–una barra o panecillos suficientes para una familia chica. Es una manera perfecta para revivir una tradición de los antepasados en una tarde de pereza y lluvia.

Experiment con la técnica y el tiempo de amasar, la cantidad de harina, y la manera de formar la masa hasta obtener el resultado deseado. Si quiere hacer cantidades mayores, puede doblar o triplicar las cantidades.

PAN BÁSICO:

Mezcla 1 cda (O 1 PAQUETE) DE LEVADURA SECA con 1 cdta AGUA TIBIA y 1 cda AZUCAR. Deje reposar de 10-15 minutos hasta que se formen burbujas en el superficie. Agrega 1 cdta DE SAL y aproximadamente 2 T DE HARINA, suficiente para hacer una masa pegajosa. Amasa hasta que esté lisa y flexible. Cubre y deja reposar hasta doblarse, aproximadamente 1 hora. Desinfle con el puno, amasa ligeramente, y haga la forma deseada–barra, bolillos, panccillos. Cubre y deja reposar de nuevo hasta doblarse, aproximadamente 30 minutos. Horneé 30 minutos a 175 grados C, hasta que se dore.

PAN BLANCO TRADICIONAL:

Agregue 1 cda ACEITE or 1 cda MANTEQUILLA SUAVE y 1 cda AZUCAR antes de agregar la harina.

PANECILLOS:

Agregue 2 cda MANTEQUILLA SUAVE y 2 cda AZUCAR a los ingredientes de Pan Basico.

PAN CON HIERBAS ITALIANAS:

Agregue 1 cda ACEITE DE OLIVA y 1/3 cdta cada una de albahaca seca, oregano seco, polvo de ajo y sal de ajo, mas 2 cdas QUESO ROMANO RALLADO

A PROPÓSITO, ¿CUÁNDO ES EL CINCO DE MAYO?

ENGLISH

(Insurgente mexicano ataca a soldado francés, Batalla de Puebla, 5 de mayo de 1862)

La evolución de Cinco de Mayo, de un reconocimiento de menor importancia en México, a una borrachera rampante latina-chicana-estadounidense es un misterio a los que vivimos en México. El 5 de mayo de 1862, un ejército insurgente mexicano venció sorpresiva y rotundamente en la ciudad de Puebla a invasores franceses bien uniformados y equipados. Sin embargo, en 1862 faltaba mucho para que la campaña de los imperialistas mexicanos y europeos para extender el Imperio Napoleónico hasta México fuera derrocada por completo.

Me irrita la emoción excesiva que rodea el Cinco de Mayo, pero a mí me irrita la emoción excesiva en general. Sin embargo, cuando me encontré dando clases de español en un pequeño pueblo tejano, era imposible escaparme del alboroto de Cinco de Mayo. En el colegio, se permitían festejos en el aula en determinadas fechas con fines didácticos y culturales. “A propósito, ¿cuándo es el Cinco de Mayo?” me preguntó el director, cuyos talentos radicaban más bien en las matemáticas que en lenguas y culturas extranjeras.

Los alumnos de preparatoria no perdonarán nunca a la profesora que pasa por alto una oportunidad para traer comida al salón, así que yo, a regañadientes, planeaba una fiesta para celebrar el Cinco de Mayo en honor a taquitos y Coca-Cola. En el closet, mi antecesor había dejado papel cortado en rojo, verde, y blanco, unas banderas mexicanas, y unos serapes y sombreros cuyos días de gloria habían pasado ya hace mucho tiempo. Desempolvé todo y puse a los alumnos a decorar el aula para justificar una pequeña fiesta en horas cuando, de manera contraria, hubiera sido prohibida.

Mucho antes de aceptar dicha asignatura docente, yo había vivido en México, donde el Cinco de Mayo no es un día de fiesta oficial. Los profesores de historia mencionaban la Batalla de Puebla en sus clases, en televisión se proyectaban documentales anticuados, y los periódicos sacaban uno o dos comentarios editoriales de sus archivos. En la Ciudad de Puebla, sitio de la batalla, hay conmemoraciones modestas. De vez en cuando, el Día del Trabajo, primero de mayo, que sí es un día feriado oficial, se juntaba con un fin de semana y el Cinco de Mayo de modo que daba pretexto para un puente, siempre recibido con regocijo por profesores y alumnos quienes en mayo luchan para sobrevivir el final del año escolar. Tal es la emoción en México para el Cinco de Mayo.

Determinada que los alumnos cuando menos comprenderían que el Cinco de Mayo NO es el Dia de la Independencia de México, yo buscaba la única herramienta docente a la cual prestarían atención durante una fiesta: una película. Encontré una que era entretenida e informativa, cuando menos para mi y algunos adolescentes aficionados de la historia mundial. En Juárez, lanzada en 1939, Bette Davis, estrella icónica con ojos enormes de los primeros días de la industria cinematográfica, destacaba en el papel de la hermosa Carlota de Bélgica, también de ojos enormes pero de triste porvenir, quien junto a su igualmente desventurado archiduque de Hapsburgo, Maximiliano de Austria, ocupaba el trono imperial en el Castillo de Chapultepec desde 1864 hasta 1867, cuando el Presidente Benito Juárez, finalmente victorioso, trasladó el sede de su gobierno desde su carroza al Palacio de Gobierno en la ciudad de México, y ordenó la abdicación del Emperador. Cuando Maximiliano rehusó por cuestion de honor, Juárez lo mandó a fusilar junto con Miramón y Mejía, sus fieles generales imperialistas.

El caso es que la victoria sorprendente en Puebla el 5 de mayo de 1862 había sido tan amarga como dulce. Los franceses y los imperialistas redoblaron sus esfuerzos, empeñándose aún más en prevalecer en el continente americano. La película detalla más o menos fielmente la lucha de México para mantener su independencia, y los hechos de Benito Juárez, celebrado como heroe de aquella lucha. Juárez era un gran admirador de Abraham Lincoln, un detalle que no ignoraron los cineastas.

Como estudiante del español en la secundaria, me había fascinado una ilustración en el libro de texto de Carlota luciendo un vestido de muchos olanes y una diadema que relucía en su hermosa cabellera. México, a solo un día de viaje de mi pueblo en Texas, ¡había sido gobernado por unos verdaderos Emperadores quienes vivían en un verdadero castillo, el de Chapultepec! Pasarían muchos anos para que yo me diera cuenta que esa noticia no era nada buena.

“Mamá, ¿qué onda con eso del Cinco de Mayo?” me preguntaban mis hijos poco después de trasladarnos a Texas desde Guadalajara. “La profesora de español quiere que les expliquemos a sus clases como celebrábamos esa fiesta asombrosa en Mexico.”

“Díganles,” les dije, “que la celebrábamos más o menos como se celebra aquí la Batalla de Gettysburg.”

Mexicanos en todo el mundo fuera de Mexico ahora celebran el Cinco de Mayo, en compañía de no-mexicanos quienes buscan una excusa para beber tequila y comer guacamole. Conmemoran una batalla mexicana, mientras que en México la gente hace lo que hace en cualquier día común y corriente.

Lectura sugerida: Abraham Lincoln and Mexico por Michael Hogan

Un corto antiguo de la película Juárez

Un documental excelente sobre los Emperadores de Mexico y los 60 años de locura de Carlota

WHEN IS CINCO DE MAYO ANYHOW?

ESPAÑOL

(Mexican insurgent attacking French soldier, Battle of Puebla, May 5, 1862))

The evolution of Cinco de Mayo, a minor recognition of the Battle of Puebla, into a United States-Latino-Chicano drink-fest is something of a mystery to people in Mexico. On May 5, 1862, an insurgent Mexican army surprisingly and soundly drove impressively equipped and uniformed French invaders out of the city of Puebla. However, in 1862, the attempt to extend Napoleon’s Empire to Mexico was far from over.

I am annoyed by excessive excitement surrounding Cinco de Mayo, but I am annoyed by excessive excitement surrounding anything. However, when I became a Spanish teacher in a small Texas town, I could not escape Cinco frenzy. The school allowed Spanish teachers to have classroom parties for cultural objectives on certain days. “When is Cinco de Mayo anyhow?” the principal asked as we worked out the calendar for a new school year.

High school students will never forgive a teacher who passes up an occasion to bring food to class, so I reluctantly planned a Cinco fiesta for the sake of taquitos and cokes. I dug red, white, and green cut paper, some Mexican flags and a few overworked serapes out of the closet to justify a little feast during otherwise forbidden school hours.

Long before taking that Spanish job, I had lived in Mexico, where Cinco de Mayo is not an official holiday. History teachers mentioned the Battle of Puebla in their classes on that day, television stations projected stock history documentaries, and newspapers published a perfunctory editorial or two from their archives. In Puebla, where the battle took place, there are muted celebrations. Sometimes May 1, Labor Day, which is a holiday in Mexico, and May 5, Mexico’s semi-holiday would come together with a weekend to give a pretext for a puente, a five-day weekend bridge, always welcomed joyfully by teachers and students struggling toward the finish of another school year. That was the extent of excitement about Cinco de Mayo.

Determined that students should at least know that Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day, I searched for the only teaching tool that students will possibly pay attention to on party day: a movie. I found one that was both entertaining and enlightening–at least to me and a few adolescent history buffs. Juarez, a 1939 release, featured Bette Davis, big-eyed iconic film star from the early days of cinema, as the beautiful but unfortunate Charlotte of Belgium, who, with her hapless Hapsburg husband, Maximilian of Austria, occupied the imperial throne in Chapultepec Castle from 1864 to 1867. That was when President Benito Juarez ordered the execution by firing squad of Maximilian, who refused to abdicate even in the face of defeat.

You see, that surprising Mexican victory back on May 5, 1862, in the city of Puebla, had been bittersweet. It was followed by a long, hard struggle to drive out the invading French. If, like me, you are a somewhat lazy aficionado of history, a Napoleonic Time Line might be just what you need to better understand what was happening in Mexico while our ancestors north of the border were killing each other over the legality of trafficking in human beings.

The celebrated victory at the Battle of Puebla had the unhappy short-term effect of causing the French, backed by Mexican Imperialists, to dig their heels in even deeper, wanting to prove they could prevail on the American continent. The movie provides more or less true-to-history details about Mexico’s fight to remain independent, and about Benito Juarez, the leader who is celebrated as the hero of that struggle. Juarez was a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln, a detail not lost on the moviemakers.

As a ninth-grade student of Spanish, I was fascinated by a textbook picture of Carlota in overlapping ruffles and a crown. Mexico, just a day’s drive away from my home in Texas, had been ruled by a real Emperor and Empress, who lived in a real castle at Chapultepec. Many years would go by before I knew for sure that this was NOT a good thing.

“Mom, what is the big deal about Cinco de Mayo?” my kids had asked just after we moved to Texas from Guadalajara, Mexico. “The Spanish teacher wants us to tell her classes how we celebrated this amazing festival in Mexico.”

“Tell them,” I said, “that you celebrated it pretty much the same way they celebrate the Battle of Gettysburg.”

Mexicans all over the world, with the exception of Mexico, now celebrate Cinco de Mayo, joined by non-Mexicans looking for an excuse to drink tequila and eat guacamole. They commemorate a battle that happened in Mexico, while Mexicans themselves are doing whatever they do on any other ordinary day.

Suggested reading: Abraham Lincoln and Mexico by Michael Hogan

A vintage trailer for the 1939 movie, Juarez

An excellent documentary on the Emperors of Mexico and Carlota’s 60 years of madness

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