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Saturday, May 3, 2008


My daughter’s birthday falls on this Mexican holiday, so we celebrate “it”, in a sense. Her birthday parties usually have a special Spanish flair to them, as we combine the celebration of her years with the remembrance of the victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Some people believe Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of Mexico’s independence, which actually took place in September 1810. Cinco de Mayo marks a David and Goliath type battle in which an ill-equipped Mexican army, made up of Mestizo and Zapotec Indians, defeated the sophisticated, well-trained French army.

Mexican history is very interesting to me, maybe because it’s woven into my own history as a Texan. This time of year, I love to introduce new aspects of Mexican culture to my children as I teach them about this special holiday.

Growing up, I had quite a few Mexican friends. On the bus ride home, a friend of mine would share tasty Mexican treats with me, like fruity suckers covered with chili powder. Her grandmother would stuff me full of homemade tortillas, which I later learned to make with the help of a boyfriend’s mother.

In highschool, I learned to make piñatas (without a balloon), and this year, I plan on passing this down to my children.

First, you have to make a papier-mache paste. There are loads of recipes available on the internet, most of which use just water and flour. Google “papier-mache paste” and find one that suits you. Some pastes require boiling, some don’t.

You’ll need lots of newspaper. Loads of it. I like to wad up the newspaper to make forms (like a head, or a body, or even a star). You can use masking tape to hold the form together. If you plan on using this as a piñata, then you’ll need a hallow part to add candy. You can do this in the back or at the bottom. Once you’ve created the form you like, you’ll need to cover it with newspaper strips (1-2 inches wide, 4-8 inches long). When you’ve finished covering it, you need to let it dry.

Once dried, you can either paint it or cover it with tissue paper (or both). Decorate and design to your heart’s content! This is a great art project to make statues as well!