Cinco de Mayo and Chichén Itzá
It's Cinco de Mayo today! For those that don't know, the 5th of May is celebrated in Mexico because it commemorates the Mexican army's unexpected victory against the French led by Napoleon lll on May 5, 1862. The French had come to Mexico to collect the unpaid war debt that was owed. The French forces weren't completely defeated until 1867 but it's this unlikely victory of the Battle of Puebla in 1862 that is celebrated. The United States celebrating in solidarity with our Mexican neighbors dates back to 1863 but became more mainstream in the 1930's as a way to to celebrate Mexican identity and build community solidarity.
Normally we celebrate by eating at a local Mexican restaurant but this year we decided to create a delicious Cinco de Mayo themed meal at our home! We are having Fi's favorite chicken and cheese quesadillas along with cheese dip and trying out two new recipes (located at bottom of page): Soapapillas and Sweet Corn Mesa.
We also used kinetic sand to make a Mexican pyramid and made a paper plate Piñata for Fi to bat around!
Fi loved doing the Mexican pyramid because it reminded her of our trip to Chichén Itzá last year. Before we left for our trip, we did a unit on Mexico so that Fi would know more about the country and people. She read about Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo who were two important Mexican artists and used this unit to learn more about the country as a whole. She was especially excited about visiting Chichén Itzá as its listed as one of the 7 New Wonders of the World. It was truly spectacular!
The name Chichén Itzá means "at the mouth of the well". This pyramid above is the Kukulkan Pyramid and is know as "El Castillo" which means "the castle". Chichén Itzá was the principal ceremonial center of the Yucatán and is believed to have been a pilgrimage place for the Maya.
It was utilized by different peoples for 1,000 years until its total abandonment in the 1500's.
It became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988.
Our guide was very knowledgeable and even taught us some interesting ways that they communicated besides speech and hieroglyphics. If you listen closely, right after the claps in the video below, you'll be able to hear bird like sounds that were caused by the amplification and echoing caused by the way that the entire area was built.
After going back through our photos from last June and discussing the things that stuck out most in our memories, we decided to recreate a Mexican pyramid of our own using kinetic sand and things we found lying around the house to form the pyramid underneath the sand. You can use anything which is part of the fun!
We decided on a box of emergenc-c, a wooden box, and a small jewelry charm box.
Then we just stacked them on top of each other and covered with kinetic sand (this stuff is amazing and we love using it!)
We cut off extra and made details with our modeling tools that we use on all sorts of projects.
For the piñata all you'll need is:
bandana or eye mask
1. Put the paper plates together like this and staple one side.
2. Fold tissue paper and cut flaps.
3. Glue tissue paper onto plates. Regular Elmers glue would work better but we only had glue sticks today.
4. Once dry, fill plates with candy (not too much so that paper plates aren't weighted down and break off of string on first hit).
5. Staple open end and thread string through the top area and hang from a tree.
6. Grab a bat or find a stick then put on a blindfold and enjoy!
We've had our cinco de Mayo fun and now it's time for our delicious dinner!
To make Sweet Corn Mesa you'll need:
1/3 cup Crisco shortening
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups corn masa harina*
1/3 cup ice water
4 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) corn kernels (about 1 lb. frozen)
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Instructions (side dish that will feed 10-12 people)
Preheat oven to 375°.
Place Crisco and butter in a mixing bowl and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
Add corn masa to butter mixture and mix for 2 minutes or until thoroughly incorporated. Add the ice water and mix at medium for 1 minute or until completely absorbed.
Place the corn kernels in a processor work bowl with the metal blade. Pulse on and off until mixture is coarsely chopped. Set aside.
Combine the corn meal, sugar, heavy cream, baking powder and salt in a large 4-quart mixing bowl.
Add the masa mixture and the ground corn to the corn meal/sugar mixture. Stir to combine thoroughly.
Pour the batter into a prepared pan, cover tightly with aluminum foil to retain the steam, and bake for 45 minutes at 375°. *Note on Masa Harina: you can purchase Masa Harina, dried corn that has been ground and treated, at most markets. It is the basic ingredient used in making tamale dough (also called masa).
For the Soapapillas you'll need:
1. Add all the dry ingredients in the bowl or mixer and pulse a couple of times to combine.
2. Add the butter and let the mixer run so you will get course dough. Now add the milk and water.
3. Run the mixer again until you see it turn into a soft dough. Take it out of the mixer and knead it by hand for a minute or two.
4. Cut the dough in half and shape into a ball. Put half of the dough on a lightly floured board. Roll with a rolling pin into a round shape around 1/2 inch thick.
5. Cut the dough circle through the middle and then into 4 triangles or wedges so you will yield 8 wedges from one circle.
6. Repeat for the second piece of dough so you have 16 triangles. Preheat a big pot with vegetable oil and fill it with about 1/3 of oil.
7. Heat to 375℉ and fry 2 to 3 sopapilla at a time until golden brown. This will take 2-3 minutes. Turn the sopapilla and fry the other side. It will take about 1 minute.
8. Take the sopapillas out of the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
9. Cool slightly while you combine the cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle the sopapillas with the cinnamon sugar or drizzle them with honey (or both!).
10. Your sopapillas dessert is ready to serve.
We thoroughly enjoyed our Cinco de Mayo festivities and meal!