Sunday, May 5, 2013

Texas Tornados -- "Guacamole" (1992)

She reached for my pepper
I grabbed her tomatoes . . .
We'd be making guacamole all night long

The prime mover behind the Tex-Mex supergroup, the Texas Tornados, was our old friend Doug Sahm, who was unofficially declared the "State Musician of Texas" after his untimely death in 1999.  Sahm first achieved fame as the leader of the Sir Douglas Quintet (remember "She's About A Mover" and "Mendocino"?) but was never better than when he was playing Tex-Mex music.

The Texas Tornados were formed in 1990 by Sahm and three of his old amigos -- the late Freddy Fender (a Mexican-American singer-songwriter whose "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" was a #1 pop and country hit in 1974), Flaco Jimenez (a Tejano accordionist from San Antonio), and Augie Meyers (who played the Vox organ on all of the Sir Douglas Quintet's hits).

Sahm, Meyers, Fender, Jimenez
There's no question that the Texas Tornados are the perfect band for 2 or 3 lines to feature on Cinco de Mayo.  Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo -- the 5th of May -- is not Mexico's Independence Day (which is observed on September 16).  Cinco de Mayo is the date that the Mexican Army soundly defeated a much larger French army in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

What the hell was a French army doing in Mexico in 1862?  In 1861, Mexican President Juárez announced a two-year moratorium on the repayment of Mexico's foreign debts.  (After the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 and a civil war a few years later, Mexico was almost bankrupt.)

The Battle of Puebla
Britain, Spain, and France sent naval forces to the port of Veracruz and demanded that Mexico show them the money.  The British and Spanish withdrew after negotiations with Mexico.  But Napoleon III, the emperor of France, decided to take the opportunity to establish a Mexican empire that would be closely allied to France, and landed an invasion force.  

The Mexican victory at Puebla, which came relatively early in the war, provided a major morale boost for the home team.  But the Mexican victory was irrelevant to the eventual outcome of the war.  The 30,000 French soldiers that Napoleon III sent to Mexico eventually prevailed over the Mexican army, occupied Mexico City, and installed Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph (an Austrian nobleman who commanded the Austrian Navy) as Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico.

Emperor Maximilian
France's real goal may have been to help the Confederates win the American Civil War.  If it was, the French defeat at Puebla threw a monkey wrench into the works.  By the time the French took control of things a year later, the tide had turned against the South in the Civil War and it was too late for the French to do much about it.

Once the Civil War ended, the Americans started to help out Juárez, who was leading a guerrilla movement against Maximilian.  The French were already worried about the prospect of war with an increasingly belligerent Prussia and didn't want a tussle with the United States, which blockaded the Mexican coast to prevent the French from sending reinforcements.

Manet's "The Execution of
Emperor Maximilian" (1868-69)
Napoleon III pulled his troops out of Mexico in 1866, and Emperor Maximilian's government collapsed the next year.  The emperor and his generals were executed by a firing squad, and that was the end of that.

Cinco de Mayo -- which is more widely celebrated in the United States than it is in Mexico -- is mostly an excuse to get drunk.  It once ranked a distant third among the major binge-drinking holidays, but today you say it was number three with a bullet -- it's gaining fast on St. Patrick's Day and New Year's Eve.  (The main difference between Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick's Day is that you drink Guinness and whiskey on St. Patrick's Day, but you drink Corona and tequila on Cinco de Mayo.)

Margarita + tequila shot + Corona
+ sombrero = "Cinco de Snooki"
When I worked for the federal government many years ago, I knew a guy who was the biggest drinker I've ever known -- by several orders of magnitude.  Although he was Irish and a big drinker, he never went out drinking on St. Patrick's Day.  When I asked him why he didn't, he told me "That's when all the amateurs go out to drink."  I wonder if he feels the same way about Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo's secret weapon in its quest to become the numero uno drinking day in the U.S. is guacamole.  Crispy tortilla chips and spicy, creamy guacamole is an irresistible combination, and demands that you have plenty of beer or margaritas on hand.

Making guacamole never sounded more enjoyable than it does in this song.  But if you get your mind out of the gutter for just one minute and listen carefully to the lyrics, you'll realize that the singer tells you all you need to know to make guacamole for real.

So stop by the grocery store on your way home from work tonight.  If you see a comely young lass buying avocados, go grab some onions and some lemon and some cervezas and introduce yourself.  If you're lucky, she'll accompany you to su casa, reach for your pepper, and allow you to grab her tomatoes.  Before you know it, you'll be making guacamole -- all night long. 
Here's "Guacamole":

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

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