Cry of Delores = Cinco de Mayo

by Marty Nopper, Tastemaker in Residence

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Well, every year at this time, I have to try and come up with things that will interest my readers. Although it's actually a monthly journey I take you on, the Cinc is extra special. From a writer’s perspective, it's especially difficult because this is the same holiday year after year and most topics on the subject have already been covered in depth. But because my readers crave for knowledge, I'm bringing the diplomas. It gets serious early on but I'll toss some personal cerveza psyche juice your way in a minute. Silly, but Americans drink to a fictitious holiday that actually celebrates the date of the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. Cinco de Mayo 2019 occurs on Sunday, May 5. A relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the United States Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a commemoration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations.


Cinco de Mayo History

Let's explore...according to my good friend Wiki, 'In 1861, Benito Juárez—a lawyer and member of the indigenous Zapotec tribe—was elected president of Mexico. At the time, the country was in financial ruin after years of internal strife, and the new president was forced to default on debt payments to European governments.

In response, France, Britain and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz, Mexico, demanding repayment. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew their forces.

France, however, ruled by Napoleon III, decided to use the opportunity to carve an empire out of Mexican territory. Late in 1861, a well-armed French fleet stormed Veracruz, landing a large force of troops and driving President Juárez and his government into retreat'. This led to the Battle of Puebla. What's that, you ask?

The Battle of Puebla

Certain that success would come swiftly, 6,000 French troops under General Charles Latrille de Lorencez set out to attack Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico. From his new headquarters in the north, Juárez rounded up a ragtag force of 2,000 loyal men—many of them either indigenous Mexicans or of mixed ancestry—and sent them to Puebla.

The vastly outnumbered and poorly supplied Mexicans, led by Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza, fortified the town and prepared for the French assault. On May 5, 1862, Lorencez gathered his army—supported by heavy artillery—before the city of Puebla and led an assault. How long did the Battle of Puebla Last?

The battle lasted from daybreak to early evening, and when the French finally retreated, they had lost nearly 500 soldiers. Fewer than 100 Mexicans had been killed in the clash.

Although not a major strategic win in the overall war against the French, Zaragoza’s success at the Battle of Puebla on May 5 represented a great symbolic victory for the Mexican government and bolstered the resistance movement. In 1867—thanks in part to military support and political pressure from the United States, which was finally in a position to aid its besieged neighbor after the end of the Civil War—France finally withdrew.

The same year, Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, who had been installed as emperor of Mexico in 1864 by Napoleon, was captured and executed by Juárez’s forces. Puebla de Los Angeles was renamed for General Zaragoza, who died of typhoid fever months after his historic triumph there’.

But Marty, this is such a big win for the Mexican people. Certainly, they have to celebrate!!! Cerveza gratis!!! Tonsil paint all around??? Not so fast, mis amigos.

'Within Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is primarily observed in the state of Puebla, where Zaragoza’s unlikely victory occurred, although other parts of the country also take part in the celebration.

Traditions include military parades, recreations of the Battle of Puebla and other festive events. For many Mexicans, however, May 5 is a day like any other: It is not a federal holiday, so offices, banks and stores remain open'.

Cinco de Mayo in the United States

Woah, El Martin, if this is a Mexican war victory, why on earth do we celebrate it here? ‘In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is widely interpreted as a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with substantial Mexican-American populations.

Chicano activists raised awareness of the holiday in the 1960s, in part because they identified with the victory of indigenous Mexicans (such as Juárez) over European invaders during the Battle of Puebla.

Today, revelers mark the occasion with parades, parties, mariachi music, Mexican folk dancing and traditional foods such as tacos and mole poblano. Some of the largest festivals are held in Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston.

Many people outside Mexico mistakenly believe that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican independence, which was declared more than 50 years before the Battle of Puebla. Wrong, Pepe. Independence Day in Mexico (Día de la Independencia) is commemorated on September 16, the anniversary of the revolutionary priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s famous “Grito de Dolores” (“Cry of Dolores”), a call to arms that amounted to a declaration of war against the Spanish colonial government in 1810’.
In honor of this hop filled holiday, I have gathered up 7 facts about esta dia de Mayo that should enlighten even the most siesta-soaked mind. Vamanos!

7 Facts You May Not Know About Cinco de Mayo

1. It means ‘fifth of May’

Just in case you weren’t paying much attention during those Sr Barbara Spanish lessons, Cinco de Mayo simply translates to the day of this tonsil paint holiday – fifth of May.

2. The holiday celebrates Mexico’s victory over France

In 1861, Mexico owed money to a number of European communities but decided that they didn’t fancy paying them back any more. France wasn’t too keen on the idea of those naughty Mexicans making off with their hard-earned cash, so they decided to go over there and demand their money back, and take over the country while they were at it.

The French army was larger, far better equipped and trained, but on May 5, 1862, the Mexican forces miraculously managed to overpower the French at the Battle of Puebla. Some 2,000 Mexican fighters used pitchforks and limited makeshift weaponry to triumph over a French force of 5,000. Sad day for the frogs.

3. Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day are two very different things.

Mexican Independence Day, or Grito de Dolores (translates as “Cry of Dolores), is celebrated on September 16 and marks the day that Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla declared war against the Spaniards in 1810. After nearly a decade of war, Spain recognized their independence in 1821. Although some people seem to think Cinco de Mayo and Mexican independence are linked, the two actually have nothing to do with each other.

4. People celebrate it a lot more in the US than they do in Mexico

When Mexican miners working in Columbia, California, heard the news in 1862, they spontaneously celebrated with fireworks, patriotic songs and heartfelt speeches. This celebration became an annual event in California, and in the 1950s and 1960s the rest of the US decided to get in on the action. But it wasn’t until the 1980s, when US beer companies used the holiday in marketing campaigns, that Cinco de Mayo celebrations really became a thing. Meanwhile in Mexico, all public schools are shut on May 5, but celebrations are fairly low-key.

5. Americans really like raising a glass (or two) for Cinco de Mayo.

According to the Daily Meal, ‘last year Cinco de Mayo fans brought 12.3 million cases of tequila to celebrate the holiday, whole Margarita sales accounted for 47% of all cocktail sales in bars and restaurants on May 5 in 2011 and 2012’. Wish I could update that number for you but my writing budget for IT research is extremely limited. I guess you could say I’m ‘tapped out’…hello, is this thing on?

6. The biggest Cinco de Mayo party is held in Los Angeles, California.

Over a half million people turn up to celebrate LA’s annual street party known as Friest Broadway and includes plenty of tasty food stalls, music and parades to honor the day.

7. Colorado celebrates with Chihuahua racing contests

It’s not entirely clear why, but Denver,Colorado, celebrates Cinco de Mayo by racing Chihuahuas. Around 50 pooches battle it out to win $500 worth of dog food among other coveted prizes. The races have become inexplicably popular and have begun springing up in Arizona and North Carolina. If you don’t have a Chihuahua to run, other novel ways to celebrate the holiday include taking part on a taco eating competition and seeing how many chilis you can eat without crying.

So, where does that leave us? And what does this have to do with beer, Senor Sudsmaster? Plenty, mis companeros de beber. This bandelero enjoys a cold sud from the south, usually when the grass needs cutting or I am devouring tacos de carne asana at the local taqueria. They are inherently light beers, most having a metallic taste to me and every now and then you get one that tastes like a skunk’s butt. Yum. First, let’s understand what's happening south of the border and its impact on American soil.

 According to USA Today, 'Beer lovers have embraced craft beer and Mexican imports like Corona Extra and Modelo Especial. While overall U.S. beer industry sales remain flat, Americans' thirst for craft beer continues to grow and Mexican beers such as Corona Extra and Modelo Especial have unquenched market appeal.

Could craft beer made by Mexican brewmaster’s be the next big beverage trend in the U.S.? What? Custom cerveza desde el sur?

A trio of former Anheuser-Busch executives and a Mexican entrepreneur are betting on it with a new venture, Quest Beverage. The company has already introduced four beers into Houston and St. Louis and throughout Missouri, and the beers are now hitting markets in California, Illinois and Texas.

The beers currently being imported are a citrusy Crossover IPA and crisp Blonde Ale from Cerveza Urbana, based in Mexicali, Mexico, and a light, dry Kölsch ale and a malty, mildly bitter London-style ale called Cerveza Rrëy from Monterrey, Mexico.

A trio of trends points to potential success:

• A growing Hispanic population in the U.S. now makes up 18 percent of Americans.

• Mexican imports are hot. Corona Extra and Modelo Especial each owned 5 percent of the retail market last year, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. Modelo Especial sales rose 18 percent, dollar-wise, from 2017.

• Growth in craft beer, brewed by small, independent breweries, has slowed, but its share of the overall $111 billion-plus U.S. beer industry is expected to increase beyond the 23.4 percent it captured in 2017, according to the Brewers Association'.

So, get it while you can (or better yet, bottle!). But Marty, I read this blog because I seek your knowledge. Guide me, O Columbus of the cool one! Ok, ok...I'm partial to many southern gut juices but I really just order what’s available from the restaurant or bar I’m at. For simplicity, in honor of the holiday, let’s talk about ordering Carta Blanca, Dos Equis, Bohemia and Tecate on any given day, especially if that day is on a sun-drenched beach! Fortunately, they all belong to the same owner, Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma. CCM is a major brewery based in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, founded in 1890. It is a subsidiary of Heineken International. The company operates brewing plants in Monterrey, Guadalajara, Toluca, Tecate, Orizaba and, beginning in 2017, Meoqui. The plants produce, among other brands, Dos Equis, Sol, Bohemia, Superior, Carta Blanca, Noche Buena, Indio, Casta and Tecate. 

The company produces a range of pale and dark lagers, some of which are available only in Mexico. Here's my take on the above-mentioned lagers of love. It could be a love/hate relationship but these beers don’t scream ‘drink me’ to many of the testosterone fueled sect in our country (generalization I believe but hope for the best). One must also realize that my wheelhouse is in the craft brew market so under no circumstances should this blog be considered an endorsement of light tasting, flavor absent suds. I, like many of you, will enjoy the holiday and give my palette and frontal lobe the weekend off...

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Carta Blanca

The brewery's original premium beer. Carta Blanca takes its name from the French "carte blanche", meaning what wives do. No, seriously, anyone have any room on the couch? It’s really French and literally translates to white card and a phrase meaning 'unlimited discretionary power to act or unrestricted authority'. Anyway, this is the educational part of our discussion so let's get it on. A pale lager, this 4% low alcohol offering has a clean taste at first but some aftertaste and maybe a touch of metal. Although I preferred it in my younger days, it's not considered on the premium side of what you should be looking for when you go to Total Wine. If you are low on funds and want to seem exotic, pick up a six. Otherwise, if you're not looking to impress your friends and don’t want your brew afficianado  compadres to think you lost your job, stay away.

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Bohemia

Ahhh, Bohemia. Bohemia, with a tad more kick than it's hermanos, checks in at 5.3% ABV and takes its name from the Czech region. It is pale pilsner, although recently a new dark Vienna beer has been launched as Bohemia Obscur (the dark one). In addition, Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma has added a craft-style wheat beer to the line – "Bohemia Weizen" a German Kristallweizen that was released in the summer of 2011. According to Men's Journal, this German Pilsner 'is a pale Mexican lager that has become a popular choice for beer drinkers looking for  a brew that is readily available and affordable. It's a step above several of the other lagers produced in Mexico'.

While it is lighter than some of the best lagers in the world, it does have a nice, barely discernible hoppiness, and overall, it's an enjoyable beer on occasion. The brewery describes it as having “deep, subtle aromas of fruits, roasted barley, and minerals give way to flavors that have almost cocoa-like bitterness and sweet hints of vanilla at the same time.” Not really catching this at all, even after enjoying all 6. Though their description may be a little grandiose, under close inspection, some of those flavors can be found from an expert in the field. Like me. Did I mention I had all seis?

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Dos Equis

Dos Equis (Spanish pronunciation: dose ekes) is a lager that was originally brewed by a German-born Mexican brewer. The brand was named Siglo XX ("20th century") to commemorate the arrival of the new century, and the bottles were marked with the Roman numeral for 20 ("XX"), thus "Dos Equis" which is Spanish for "two Xs". The main brand Dos Equis XX Special Lager is a 4.45% ABV pale lager sold in green bottles. Dos Equis XX Amber is a 4.7% Vienna-style amber lager sold in brown bottles and was first exported to the US in 1973. Dos Equis XX Mexican Pale Ale is a 5.5% traditional pale ale with a Mexican twist, released in late 2018 on draught to various restaurants and bars across the United States. Relying on advice my friends at Fearlesscritic.com, this Mexican beer 'has risen in visibility recently, partly on the strength of the well- known ad campaign, “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” Sidebar 1- follow the link to hear some famous quotes…https://www.mic.com/articles/9659/22-of-the-best-dos-equis-the-most-interesting-man-in-the-world-quotes-video. But the beer has been in production for over a century, and unlike its even-more-ubiquitous compatriot Corona, Mexicans really drink Dos Equis. A fairly faint nose with low aromas of cooked corn and minimal hops is all there is to be found. The palate is similarly empty; there are crackers and malt in the palate, hints of green apple, and no hops to speak of. Despite fairly substantial carbonation, there’s a dull, flat quality to this beer, which lacks bitterness that might brighten it up'. I don't know what a cracker taste in a beer means as I can't get through the citrus barrage just to choke it down. I agree that most Mexican beers are flat, especially after you have lost the taste for anything less than a hop bomb. A hint of malt? Sure. Not sending any postcards home but enjoyable when you're down to your last 5 bucks.

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Tecate

Probably my favorite of the bunch, I enjoy this sud as a change of direction at my local watering hole, Scotty Quixx, in Va Beach (shout out…free Tecate???). Tecate and Tecate Light are popular pale lagers named after the city of Tecate, Baja CA., where they were first produced in 1943. Originally brewed by a local company, Tecate was acquired by Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma in 1955. Tecate is sold in both distinctive red and blue aluminum cans and in twist-top bottles. Tecate Light was launched in 1992 and in 2013, Tecate Titanium, containing a greater amount of alcohol, was launched as a new product of the company. Never had that but Tecate is a solid product, not necessarily requiring the lime dunk. A well-balanced lager with an almost non-existent IBU, this is a 4.5% pop that finishes clean.

Other beers include but aren't reviewed above:

  • Moctezuma Im sure we all can insert a joke here. Don't recommend unless the need for weight loss is in your immediate future.

  • Noche Buena Its name comes from the Spanish name of the poinsettia flower, commonly attached to the Christmas festivities. It is a bock styled seasonally brewed beer, usually sold from early October to late December. Drink enough and it might be…

  • Sito de Kaiser Literally means Kaiser site but no information given. Could potentially be a German style pilsner???

  • Casta An English Pale Ale sporting a 5.5% ABV, this cerveza is retired and no longer brewed.

  • Superior Once the front beer of Cervecería Moctezuma. Its marketing slogan was "La Rubia que todos quieren" ("The blonde that everyone loves") referring to its pure yellow tone. Funny, I thought that was my wife!