Few could have imagined the elusive floral wonder retrieved in January 1837 from the heart of Guyana’s wildest jungles– and fewer still could have predicted the extent to which it would transform an entire continent’s cultural and aesthetic sensibilities.
On the fifth of May, many in the US and Mexico will celebrate Cinco de Mayo, the commemoration of Mexico’s victory over the French at the Battle of the Puebla in 1862. In this excerpt from Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food, Jeffrey Pilcher looks at Cinco de Mayo and the first written instance of the word “taco.”
By Natasha Zaretsky
In March 1978, Ada Smith, a fifty-six-year old woman from Memphis, sat down at her typewriter and wrote an angry letter to Tennessee’s Republican Senator Howard Baker. She explained that until recently, she had always been proud of her country, and “its superiority in the world.” But now her pride had turned to fear: “After coming through that great fiasco Vietnam, which cost us billions in dollars and much more in American blood, we are now faced with another act of stupidity, which, in the years to come, could be even more costly.”
By Ilan Stavans
The Hispanic world is in the news lately, and the news is mostly good. Latinos in the United States are a growing political force, and developments in Latin America are at the forefront of world affairs. To start with, Latinos, the largest minority in the United States (approximately 57 million strong and slated to double by 2030), are acknowledged to be the deciding factor in Barack Obama’s re-election.
By Virginia Garrard-Burnett
After the judge’s ruling Monday in Guatemala City, the crowd outside erupted into cheers and set off fireworks. The unthinkable had happened: Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez had cleared the way for retired General Efraín Ríos Montt, who between 1982 and 1983 had overseen the darkest years of that nation’s 36-year long armed conflict, would stand trial for genocide.
By William H. Beezley
Mexicans are celebrating the sesquicentennial of the Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) 1862, when at the Battle of Puebla, their troops defeated a veteran French invasion force. The battle shocked western leaders and military observers in equal measure. The Mexicans were viewed as ragtag, poorly-armed bandits rather than soldiers, and the French were considered by many as the world’s best-equipped, most-experienced army. As astonishing as the victory was, it did not end the French invasion, but only postponed it for a year until a second Battle at Puebla.
This Day in World History
Dressed in army fatigues and surrounded by supporters and reporters, 32-year old Fidel Castro took the oath of office as Cuba’s prime minister on February 16, 1959. He would remain in power for nearly fifty years.
This Day in World History
On February 2, 1536, Spanish explorer Pedro de Mendoza founded the city he named Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Aire—Buenos Aires, Argentina. The new town was meant to spearhead the Spanish effort to colonize the interior of South America. It came less than two years after conquistadors had returned to Spain from Peru with treasures seized from the Inca empire.
On January 26, 1500, Spanish sailor Vincente Yáñez Pinzón spotted land. He named the cape the Cabo de Santa María de la Consolación. The site was near modern-day Recife, Brazil, making Pinzón the first European to explore Brazil.
This Day in World History
According to the tradition accepted by the Roman Catholic Church, a fifty-five-year old Native American who had converted to Christianity was moving down Tepeyac Hill to a church in Mexico City to attend mass. Suddenly, he beheld a vision of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ and an iconic figure in the Catholic Church.
By Gerald Steinacher
April 11, 1961 marked the beginning of the trial against Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. In the course of the trial, the world came face to face with the reality of the Holocaust or what the Nazis called the “final solution of the Jewish problem” – the killing of 6 million people. Newspapers around the world published thousands of articles about Eichmann and his role in the Holocaust. But what none of the international journalists touched upon was probably the most intriguing aspect of Eichmann’s story: the way in which he, the bureaucrat of the Holocaust, managed to escape justice soon after the war and flee to Argentina.
By Susan Pick
With all the ambitious international goals and targets that developing countries have committed to, from poverty reduction to universal education and access to health care, we’ve observed a not uncommon response by the governments: too strong a focus on the public image of the new programs, not strong enough a focus on making the programs truly accessible. Here’s an example to illustrate our point: On a daily basis, Mexicans are exposed to immeasurable social development propaganda from government agencies. The propaganda is unavoidable because these messages are disseminated via commercials on public transportation, highway billboards, TV and radio, and
The recent Cholera outbreak in Haiti reminds us that this is not simply a disease of the distant and unsanitary past. The current outbreak is both unique and typical. Caused by a disease that has a long and devastating history, this Haiti outbreak has much in common with the outbreaks of the nineteenth century and twentieth century. History helps us keep in mind five key factors:
By Susan Pick and Jenna T. Sirkin
In September, our world leaders met in New York for the Summit on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. They congratulated one another for lower child mortality rates, the increase in women’s empowerment and a reduction in the number of new HIV/AIDS cases; they lamented how far we are from reaching the eight goals we established ten years ago. But are they missing the point?
One of the Millennium Development Goals is particularly complex: achievement of universal primary education. We measure the progress made toward this goal with net enrollment ratios, the proportion of pupils who finish primary school, and literacy rates. We know that according to the UN’s 2010 report, “enrollment in primary education
Tweet By William H. Beezley November 20, Mexicans everywhere will celebrate the centennial of their epic revolution. A century ago, a generation of young, largely provincial Mexican men and women initiated and carried out a social revolution that preceded the Russian Revolution (1917), had greater educational and public health successes than the Chinese Revolution (1948), […]
By Lorna Speid
The news that prisoners and the mentally ill were deliberately infected with syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases in experiments conducted by the US in the late 1940s has sent shock waves around the world. What is most shocking is that this experiment occurred in the aftermath of the Nuremberg Trials which brought to light the Nazi experiments that were so abhorrent. The Nuremberg Code of 1948 set basic standards for studies to be conducted in humans. We are told that there may be 40 additional experiments yet to come to light which involved experimentation on people on US soil that were never told that they were taking part in experiments.