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Volume II
April 29, 2003

Cinco de Mayo

Have you celebrated Cinco de Mayo lately? You might wish to start up a new family tradition by learning about America's southern neighbors and by serving up their tasty recipes every May 5.

In much of a Revolutionary War spirit, Cinco de Mayo celebrates the victory of the "underdogs" against the powerful French occupants of Mexico. In 1862, The French decided that the Mexican people would pay their debts, and instead of discussing this idea with the Mexican government, they placed Maximilian, a new French emperor into power. Infuriated, the Mexican leader, General Zaragosa, ordered a calvary attack on the French army. Though the French retaliated and chased after their attackers, many flanks met defeat. The remaining flanks set out to retrieve their pride with a counter-attack against a band of underarmed natives. Using only machetes, the Mexicans used their native resources to trip up the French attack--thunderstorms, mud, and a cattle stampede-until the French claimed defeat.

This timely victory helped turn the tide in the current Civil War in America. The French, planning to supply the Confederate Army, lost its chance to do so once expelled from Mexico. The Union army, then, gained more strength and power to eventually overcome the South in 1865. To celebrate the victory of the Mexican people, the Union sent reinforcements to the Mexican Army and members of the American Legion of Honor marched in Mexico City's Victory Parade.

Cinco de Mayo, then, becomes a symbol of neighborliness between the United States and Mexico, celebrating Hispanic culture and enjoying unique traditions. The following crafts will help children really grasp the spirit of this celebration as they enjoy making ponchos, potted paper flowers, and of course a piñata.

Paper Bag Poncho
Large paper grocery bags
Bright markers
Paint brushes and water

What You Do:
1. Cut a hole in a paper bag so that your or your child's head can fit through.
2. Cut slits up both sides of the bag to the shoulders.
3. Cut a fringe around the bottom edge of the sack.
4. Decorate the paper bag poncho with brightly colored markers or paints or crayons.
5. Try a waterpaint wash technique, whereby you draw on the paper with crayons and paint a light wash of paint over the crayons.
6. You can also glue bits of fabric scraps onto the paper bag as well.
7. For artistic inspiration, take a look at some real ponchos.

Tissue Paper Flowers
Tissue paper
Green pipe cleaner
Plaster of Paris
Small clay flower pots or plastic cups

For each flower, cut three 4 or 5-inch diameter circles from the tissue paper. Cut the green pipe cleaner in half; reserve other half for more flowers. Roll one end of the pipe cleaner half into a small circle; poke the other end through the center of a tissue paper circle. Slide the tissue paper up to fit snugly below the pipe cleaner circle. Crumple the paper a bit to make it look fluffy. Slide on the remaining paper petals and crumple as desired. For a bouquet, make 3 or 4 more flowers and twist their ends together. Pour some Plaster of Paris into the small flower pot or plastic cup. As it sets, stick the flower bouquet in it. Once set, arrange the flowers to suit you and decorate the pot with ribbon or stickers. You could cover the plaster with dried moss.

Papier-mâché pinatas are simple fun! Using the internet, you can search for piñata to pull up a wide variety of designs and instructions on how to create them. Meanwhile, here's a great papier-mâché paste that will work on whichever pattern you choose.

Papier-Mâché Paste
2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup flour
2 cups cold water
3 tablespoons sugar

Heat 2 cups water to boiling. Meanwhile, stir 1/2 cup flour into 2 cups cold water. Whisk into boiling water. Bring to a boil again, stirring frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar. Let the paste cool completely before using (thickens as cools). Cover and chill in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

--Share your Family Fun-Time Ideas with us by sending them to --

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Three cheers for mother
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