Anchorage Celebrates Cinco De Mayo

A hearty plate of chicken mole is one way to celebrate Cinco De Mayo. Scroll down for recipe

Saturday is Cinco de Mayo. The date has become synonymous with Mexican celebrations, and Anchorage restaurants and watering holes are marking the date with parties and special foods. In fact, parties will be happening all over the U.S. in honor of the day, although many Americans have little idea why.

May 5th – Cinco De Mayo – has become synonymous with celebrations. On Cinco De Mayo, everybody’s Mexican

Parties happen all over the U.S. in observance of the day, although it’s meaning goes way beyond Margaritas and guacamole.

Many Americans confuse the date with Mexican Independence Day, which is actually September 15. So why do we celebrate Cinco De Mayo?

“Every year, the Hispanic community, together of course, with the Mexican community, were celebrating Cinco de Mayo. And US citizens joined these celebrations, and now, most probably, Cinco de Mayo is more celebrated in the US than in Mexico.”

That’s Senor Javier Abud, the Mexican consul in Anchorage, who presented a primer on Cinco de Mayo as one of the consulate’s events tied to the day. He says Mexicans in California started the trend long ago, a year s after a Mexican victory in battle.

Cinco De Mayo marks a milestone in the Mexican struggle for independence, when at the Battle of Puebla, poorly trained and vastly outnumbered Mexican forces under the leadership of General Ignazio Zaragoza held back the well armed, expertly trained French army on May 5, 1862. The French general had bragged he would take Mexico with 6,000 soldiers.

The French were bent on conquest, and some historians say, were aiming to invade the US, which was embroiled in it’s own War Between the States at the time.

Although the Battle of Puebla did not win the war, it slowed the French advance and served as an inspirational event, and is celebrated as such in Mexico. And increasingly, the day is observed in the US.

Anchorage’s Gallo’s restaurant highlights the foods of Puebla as part of a week long Cinco De Mayo festival. Yummm pollo mole, with Mexican rice and refried beans sprinkled with parmesan. Server Renee Carver says it’s a traditional dish popular with restaurant patrons

“Mole is like a chocolate sauce.” ‘but it’s spicy’. “Yes, it is. They have their own seasonings. It has onion, salt, chicken broth, and on top, they put sesame seeds on top.”

There’s dishes like Pipian Rojo, Mole Poblano and Chiles En Nogada too. Dishes that make Spanish language teacher Norma Wadsworth nostalgic for Mexico. She says Cinco De Mayo was not always noted in Alaska.

“I have been here 32 years, and I’ve seen it grow”

So, why is the day important to her?

“Because I am from Mexico, and I am very proud of my heritage. And Cinco de Mayo, I guess, it’s for everybody.”

While the day may be creating a new tradition in the U.S., much older traditions seem to be taking root in a younger generation

That’s the strong voice of sixteen year old high school student Zaide Manzano. She’s singing patriotic songs, in a style called ranchera:

“I tend to be very patriotic when it comes to my culture. My parents, my family, made sure I was raised to know my roots, to know where I came from really. I was born here in Alaska, but, every since I can remember, my family would keep family and culture root here. I’ve always loved ranchera. I think that’s why I keep going, my love for it. ”

Dressed in her “vestido de charro” or traditional Mexican singer’s outfit, Zaide is carrying on a Mexican tradition, and sharing it with Alaska.

Consul Abud says Cinco De Mayo has captured the imagination of Americans, and provides an opportunity for Americans and Hispanics from multiple national origins to celebrate common values and traditions.

Mexican consulates all over the US are hosting Cinco de Mayo events this week.



Mole Poblano / Peppers with Mole Sauce


  • 3 cups of mole paste
  • 6 pieces of chicken breasts (boil them in in onion with salt)
  • Chicken broth
  • 5 teaspoons of Sesame seeds.


Mix mole paste with the chicken broth, (needs to be hot) not too watery. Fry the paste and add salt to your taste, then add chicken breasts and let it cook more. Serve mole Poblano with rice and beans, put sesame seeds on top of mole.

Pipian Rojo / Spicy Red Chicken


  • 6 pieces of chicken cooked with onion and salt
  • 1 pound of red tomatoes
  • 8 red dried chiles serranos
  • 4 ounces of sesame seeds
  • 1 piece of garlic
  • 1 small piece of cinnamon


Cook red tomatoes with the Serrano chiles in water, grind garlic and the piece of cinnamon. Then add sesame seeds and fry in oil adding salt to your taste, add chicken broth, after cooking for some time add the pieces of chicken. Serve with rice and beans.

Mole Sauce

  • 4 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (I usually use Hershey Special Dark, it has a sweetness that mellows the sauce)


1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over med.

2. low heat.

3. Add onion, garlic, oregano, cumin and cinnamon.

4. Cover and cook until onion is almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

5. Mix in chili powder and flour, stir for 3 minutes.

6. Gradually whisk in chicken broth.

7. Increase heat to med. high.

8. Boil until reduced, about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.

9. Remove from heat.

10. Whisk in chocolate; season with salt and pepper, if desired.

APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone.
Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA
elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen

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