Cinco de Mayo celebrates the victory of Mexican troops in La Batalla de Puebla, on May 5, 1862, over the French Army of Napoleon III. France invaded Mexico to collect debts owed to them after President Benito Juarez issued a moratorium in 1861 stopping payments on Mexican foreign debt. (During the 1850s, Mexico had a financial crisis.) The Mexican army forced the larger French army to secede. The victory at the Battle of Puebla was an opportunity for the Mexican people to come together and celebrate their heritage. A large number of Chicanos, or Americans of Mexican decent, like myself, celebrate this holiday because it exemplifies victory in the face of adversity. Cinco de Mayo, a holiday with historical and cultural significance, is a celebration of Mexican pride and heritage.
Cinco de Mayo has become a popular day of celebration in the United States, too. Many neighborhoods across the country have block parties with mariachi music, parades, folk dancing and Mexican delicacies. In the St. Louis area, however, it tends to be more of a celebration of food and drink. Most people gather at local bars or restaurants, but holding your own Cinco de Mayo celebration may be a way to bring a bit of the culture back to the annual tradition.
Like all foods in Mexico, food for for Cinco de Mayo varies between different regions of Mexico. However, there are no specific traditional foods for Cinco de Mayo. Mexican households prepare favorite family recipes, spend time together with friends and family and celebrate.
Mainstays all over Mexico include pork, beef, chicken, corn and corn products (tortillas, tamales, sopes), and beans and rice cooked in a variety of ways, depending on the region. Some of my family favorites are elotes, guacamole and chilaquiles.
Elote is the evolution of a Nahuatl word meaning "corn on the cob". As a child, I ate elote sold by vendors in the streets of Coyoacan, an eclectic historical neighborhood in Mexico City. They are served on stick, first rolled in mayonnaise, queso cotija (cotija cheese) and chili powder. The mayonnaise in Mexico is made with limes instead of lemons. Mayonesa McCormick (lime mayonnaise) is available here and sold at Walmart in Manchester for less than $4. The lime imparts an incredible flavor not just on elote, but on sandwiches and tuna salad. La Morena grocery store in Manchester also sells the lime mayonnaise and queso cotija. Queso cotija is an aged cow cheese similar in saltiness and texture to feta cheese, but has a truly unique quality that is connected to the authenticity of the dish.
4 ears of corn
1/2 cup of Mayonesa McCormick
1 cup of cotija cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 lime wedges
- Boil corn until tender, drain.
- Roll in mayonnaise.
- Sprinkle with cotija cheese and lime.
- Season with salt and pepper and chili powder.
Guacamole was a staple at all of my mother's parties. I was sworn to secrecy, but this is just between you and me. Schnucks in Manchester and Town and Country and Whole Foods in Town and Country have beautiful avocados for this recipe.
6 avocados, peeled and pitted
1 1/2 onions, finely diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 limes, juice of
3 serrano chiles, minced, seeds and veins removed (to taste)
2 tomatoes, large, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
- Mash avocados.
- Add onions, cilantro, lime juice, chiles and tomatoes. Mix gently until blended.
- Season with salt and pepper.