Happy Star Wars Day, young Jedi!
As April 20 is a quasi-holiday for dope smokers, May 4 is reserved for Star Wars aficionados.
According to starwars.com, the first appearance of the expression “May The 4th Be With You” cropped up in May 1978, exactly one year after the movie came out. But instead of being passed off as a lame Dad-type pun, it’s become a full-fledged catchphrase; hence May 4 is now acknowledged as Star Wars Day.
Whatever the case, I’m not sure how one celebrates the 4th of May other than cosplaying one of the characters or talking like Yoda all day, but maybe chewing ‘bacca could be another way.
Full disclosure: on my keychain is a miniature Millenial Falcon.
Speaking of movies, one came out some 54 years ago and became one of my guilty pleasures. It’s called “The Undefeated,” and I would have to wait until the 1990s to acquire my own copy on videocassette. It was not a particularly great movie, but as some have said, good enough to be likable and likable enough to be good.
It starred John Wayne and Rock Hudson, ably assisted by costars L.A. Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel and defensive tackle Merlin Olsen. So yeah, a real guy’s movie.
The story concerns the kith and kin of a bunch of Southern farmers who decided to relocate to Mexico after the Civil War, having lost their plantations to carpetbaggers. Along with them is a former Union cavalry officer who made a deal to sell 3,000 horses to the Mexican government at the time, headed by Emperor Maximilian, who, it turns out, was a pretty shifty character. Maximilian, with the backing of Napoleon III, had invaded Mexico with the French army a couple of years prior and appointed himself Emperor.
Not surprisingly, this didn’t sit too well with Benito Juárez and the Mexican people, especially in the city of Puebla, who fought tooth and nail to get rid of him and his occupying army. On May 5, 1862, a much smaller and poorly equipped Mexican army defeated the larger French army in the Battle of Puebla.
So there you have it. Cinco de Mayo, a date when Mexico proved its mettle.
It did, however, take another four years to finally vanquish the French from Mexico’s shores, but Juárez held onto Maximilian long enough to court-martial and execute him.
In the movie, our aforementioned heroes arrive in Mexico City to be greeted by Maximilian, who – spoilers here – renege on his promise to buy the horses and ends up just taking them away from John Wayne, Rock Hudson, et al.
As I said, it’s not a great movie, just a pretty good old-fashioned shoot ’em up.
On the other hand, a little more descriptive Hollywood movie about the whole situation is the 1939 “Juárez,” starring a decidedly non-Mexican cast of Paul Muni, Bette Davis and Claude Rains.
But I digress.
These days Cinco de Mayo has taken over another meaning here, mainly as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. And especially in New Mexico, which only became part of the U.S. in 1848 with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
All things being equal, Cinco de Mayo is universally considered a symbol of fighting for freedom against oppression for all peoples. And the date in question is a matter of pride in Mexico even after all these years. If you’ve ever been to Palomas, Chihuahua, right across the border from Columbus, you’ll notice the main street is Avenida 5 de Mayo.
According to some accounts, celebrating Cinco de Mayo in the U.S. became crazily popular only since the 1950s or 60s. By the time breweries like Dos Equis, Modelo and Corona realized its marketing power in the 1980s, it really took off, and today Cinco de Mayo is the third biggest beer-drinking day in the U.S., right after St. Patrick’s Day and the Super Bowl.
While we’re on the libation subject, I happen to run across a documentary on YouTube called “How Beer Saved The World,” which traces the origins of beer from practically the dawn of history to a special brew for use in zero-gravity space missions.
Turns out archeological evidence suggests that early man may have made beer from grain and water before learning to make bread. Cuneiform tablets from around 4,300 BCE include recipes for beer. And by the middle ages, beer was considered a food, and a low-alcohol version was served at most meals. This was better than drinking the usually contaminated water since beer-making required water to be boiled.
Seems like people have been getting together over a glass or two of ales and pilsners forever.