Behold! The Heartbreaking, Hair-Raising Tale Of Freak Show Star Julia Pastrana, Mexico’s Monkey Woman
"Unwrapping the history of Mexico's real national snack uncovers classism, dynamite, and shifting definitions of culture." The history of tacos, the linguistic history of the word "taco", and the tenuous notion of an "authentic taco" have a whole complex of intersecting stories behind them. "The Messy Business of Tacos" is an excerpt from food historian Jeffrey Pilcher's Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food. [more inside]
In 1984, The Voyage of the Mimi set sail on PBS, exploring the ocean off the coast of Massachusetts to study humpback whales. The educational series was made up of thirteen episodes intended to teach middle schoolers about science and math. The first fifteen minutes of each episode were a fictional adventure starring a young Ben Affleck. The second 15 minutes were an "expedition documentary" that would explore the scientific concepts behind the show's plot points. A sequel with the same format, The Second Voyage of the Mimi aired in 1988, and featured the crew of the Mimi exploring Mayan ruins in Mexico. [more inside]
Hailed as heroes in Mexico for fighting with and defending the country against American invasion and reviled as traitors in the US for desertion, about 50 Irish immigrants were hung en masse after defeat in the Mexican-American War. A musical collaboration by The Chieftains, Ry Cooder and Latino musicians tell the history of the 'San Patricios'. (Related NPR story) For more background on the San Patricios, the fascinating documentary Saol John Riley, part 1 and part 2 follows Kerry singer songwriter Charlie O'Brien as he revisits sites associated with Patricio leader John Riley to discover the revolutionary hero's fate. [more inside]
The International Center of Photography is exhibiting photographs online from the Mexican Suitcase, a cache of photographs taken during the Spanish Civil War, hidden, and rediscovered in 2008.
Slaves of the moment: "The Mexican Agustín Víctor Casasola, with the intermittent help of his brother Miguel, began to set up around 1900 one of the most important photographic archives for the history of a country. However, the international recognition of these almost 500,000 photos has not matched its importance. Born in 1874 and raised in the years of the Porfirio Díaz government, Agustín Casasola was a direct witness to all the adversities that led to modern Mexico, and breathed as nobody else the air of a country and a city that developed during the first third of the 20th century at a runaway pace."
After a fruitless hunt for Pancho Villa, General Pershing and his forces withdrew from northern Mexico in early 1917. But, "[w]hat to do with 300 Chinese who have associated themselves with the punitive expedition?" [more inside]
The Mexican kitchen's Islamic connection :"When Mexico’s leading writer, Nobel Prize laureate Octavio Paz, arrived in New Delhi in 1962 to take up his post as ambassador to India, he quickly ran across a culinary puzzle. Although Mexico and India were on opposite sides of the globe, the brown, spicy, aromatic curries that he was offered in India sparked memories of Mexico’s national dish, mole (pronounced MO-lay). Is mole, he wondered, “an ingenious Mexican version of curry, or is curry a Hindu adaptation of a Mexican sauce ?” How could this seeming coincidence of “gastronomic geography” be explained ?"
Maya Ruins - Nice images of Maya ruins in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, indexed to site plans. See for instance Uxmal: the Grand Pyramid, the House of the Doves, the Nunnery Quadrangle, and the Pyramid of the Magician. See also: the Meso-American Photo Archives.
"The make him into something he wasn't." Today, on the 200th anniversary of his birth, a national holiday, Mexico both honors and reconsiders Benito Juarez (Wikipedia: Eng/Span): "Mexico's Lincoln," the nation's first indigenous president, who served two terms in the 1860s and 1870s. The capital city's airport, a border city of 1.1M, universities, and streets and monuments in just about every town are named after Juarez, widely considered a national hero. Politicians left and right invoke his name, especially this year as Mexico prepares to elect a new president in July. For many in the Latin American left, he's a regional icon in the vein of Simon Bolivar and Ernesto "Che" Guevara; Havana unveiled a bust (Span) of him last year. He's held up as a defender of the poor and the indigenous and an opponent to free trade. Today, however, some historians say he was neither. For those who read Spanish, a leading Mexican (right-of-center) newspaper, El Universal, also touches on the topic in "Juarez, a controversial icon."
Today is Texas Independence Day On March 2, 1836, the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed at Washington-on-the-Brazos. The document was created by the Convention of 1836 while almost a couple hundred brave Texans at the Alamo held Gen. Santa Anna's army of several thousand at bay for 13 days. On March 6, the Alamo finally fell, slaughtered to the last man. On March 27, 352 Texas soliders were slaughtered at the Goliad Massacre. Finally on April 21, the untrained armies of Texas, outnumbered and under the command of Sam Houston, decisively defeated the much larger and better trained and equipped Army of Mexico at the Battle of San Jacinto and captured the Mexican dictator Santa Anna. Happy Texas Independence Day.
An Image Bank For Everyday Revolutionary Life - The Siqueiros Photographic Archive is a collection of photographic images collected by Mexican mural artist David Áfaro Siqueiros..."The archive traces Siqueiros's visual research prior to painting on canvas or on the wall, and also documents his use of photography during the production of the works themselves." [via]
7,000 Years of Religious Ritual Is Traced in Mexico Archaeologists have traced the development of religion in one location over a 7,000-year period, reporting that as an early society changed from foraging to settlement to the formation of an archaic state, religion also evolved to match the changing social structure. This archaeological record, because of its length and completeness, sheds an unusually clear light on the origins of religion, a universal human behavior but one whose evolutionary and social roots are still not well understood.
In 1545 and 1576, plagues swept across the Yucatan peninsual in Mexico and killed 17 million people, including 80 percent of the native Indians. The traditional view is that American Indians succumbed to European diseases to which they had no natural resistance. A new and subtle theory says that the plagues were not imported but were in fact of local origin. It doesn't let the Europeans off the hook though.
Cinco de Mayo is the biggest day of the year for avocados -- it is a Mexican holiday, but a minor one. It marks a May 5, 1862, victory by a small army of Mexican patriots and peasants over stronger French forces, but it's not Mexican Independence Day -- a common misconception among Cinco de Mayo partyers in the United States. In the United States, it's become the Latin version of St. Patrick's Day -- largely because makers of beer, chips, salsa and tequila promote it heavily as a reason to party.