A lot of folks are prepared for a long weekend of eating carne asada tacos, drinking ice-cold Modelo beers, and listening to the beautiful sounds of music from Vicente Fernandez and Jose Alfredo Jimenez at their local Cinco de Mayo event.
Yet most of those people have no clue what it is they are celebrating on the fifth of May, and no it’s not Mexican Independence Day, which is Sept. 16.
Although it has the same ring as the Fourth of July, Cinco de Mayo was not the day the citizens of Mexico declared war against the Spanish colonial government in 1810.
The fifth of May is the celebration of El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (The Day of the Battle of Puebla) in 1862 where a small group of two thousand peasants under the command of General Ignacio Zaragoza held their ground against the powerful and at the time the all mighty French army commanded by Marshal Lorencz.
And as mentioned on the History Channel website, “Although not a major strategic win in the overall war against the French, Zaragoza's success at Puebla represented a great symbolic victory for the Mexican government and bolstered the resistance movement.”
Today, Cinco de Mayo in Mexico is observed mainly by the state of Puebla with traditions that include military parades, recreations of the Battle of Puebla and small festivals.
However, the day is highly celebrated throughout the United States, primarily in areas with substantial Mexican-American populations like in Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and, of course, Watsonville.
Most of the parties and festivals celebrated in both Mexico and the United States are undoubtedly the most colorful events the human eye can witness.
City streets, fairgrounds and house parties are filled with goodies such as tamales, posole, enchiladas and mole just to name a few. Mariachi bands perform classic tunes from artist like Pepe Aguilar and Javier Solis.
Another tradition many Mexican-Americans kids particularly love to take part in is creating piñatas and sombreros from scratch. When the piñatas are finished they are then filled with candy and all the youngsters circle around and whack whatever colorful creation came into mind with a stick until the floor is showered with pieces of sweet treats.
But other than a bunch of grownups guzzling beer and stuffing their faces with food as kids running around with a dandy-looking sombrero, Cinco de Mayo is also recognized as a day to commemorate Mexican heritage and pride as well as recognizing those who fought in a battle that led European countries to seize any more invasions on American soil.
That said, here is one way to celebrate: my mom’s enchilada recipe.
2 dozen – Corn Tortillas
3 lb – Whole Chicken
8 oz – Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese
6 – California Chile Pods
3 – Garlic Teeth
1 – Large Yellow Onion
8 oz – Tomato Sauce (small box)
Step One —Enchilada Filler:
1. Boil a whole chicken with half of the large onion in a large pot until meat is cooked and tender enough to pull apart. Pick apart the meat from all areas of the bird and shred up; set aside and save the broth.
2. Heat up a large pan with enough oil to leave a thin layer; add the other half of onion (chop finely) and sauté for about ten minutes; add tomato sauce and let boil for five minutes then add shredded chicken with a small amount of broth from the pot (about two to three tablespoons) to add some flavor.
3. Lightly stir chicken and tomato sauce in med-low heat for about ten minutes, set aside the enchilada filler in a bowl.
Step Two — Chili Sauce:
1. Boil chilies until soft and transfer them to a blender; add garlic and salt (two pinches – sorry, it’s mom cooking) and mix; Separate the seeds from the chili sauce with a strainer and discard seeds.
2. Heat up a separate large pan with oil and add the chili sauce. – *Wait until the sauce boils for a little over five minutes that way it “sauté’s” a bit in the hot oil or else it will taste a little bit bitter; set aside the pan.
Step Three — Enchilada Set Up:
1. Heat up a separate medium pan with oil and fry the tortillas one by one for no more than 10 to 15 seconds (depending how hot the oil is) and transfer the freshly fried tortillas into the chili sauce you previously made in step two. Make sure both sides are covered and stack the tortillas on a separate plate for chicken filler.
2. Fill in the chili drenched tortillas with the chicken filler made from step one and roll each one into the form of a taquito. Lay each enchilada neatly into two rows inside a deep baking sheet and top the entire dish with the cheese.
3. Cover the baking sheet with foil and throw it into a 350 degree oven until the cheese is completely melted.
For additional scrumptious toppings after the enchiladas are done, add shredded lettuce, onions, sour cream or crema (Mexican sour cream), and queso fresco (Mexican fresh cheese).