Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos) is celebrated today and tomorrow in Mexico and other parts of the world. The day celebrates all those who have died. Families and friends bring flowers to grave sites. They prepare festive meals and remember their loved ones by creating ofrendas, alters of offerings to their departed. Children can learn more at a fascinating site: Day of the Dead.
Las Posadas is celebrated in Mexico. This event begins December 16th and ends December 24th. Each evening families walk from house to house, seeking shelter for Mary and Joseph. At the last house, everyone enters. People feast and dance, and a piñata is broken open. Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith’s Las Posadas: an Hispanic Christmas Celebration gives great insights into this tradition.
Aztec stone calendar was discovered in Mexico City in 1790. The huge stone, weighing almost 25 tons and measuring over eleven feet in diameter, was probably carved around 1479. It was buried soon after the Spanish arrived. The stone demonstrated how the Aztec 52-year calendar cycle worked. Children could also see how to make a simple calendar stone at:
Aztec Calendar Stone.
Gadsden Purchase Treaty was signed in 1853. The United States purchased from Mexico a strip of land south of the Gila River. James Gadsden, United States minister to Mexico, negotiated the deal with Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, Mexico’s leader. The United States paid ten million dollars for the area. The country gained almost 30,000 square miles of territory. Children can learn more about the Gadsden Purchase at: Gadsden Purchase.
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in 1848, ending the war between Mexico and the United States. In return for fifteen million dollars from the United States, Mexico gave up the land that became California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Texas also became part of the United States. Children can learn more at: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Battle of the Alamo started in 1836 and ended March 6, 1836. The causes of the battle was quite complex: Americans fighting in a mission in an area that was Mexico but is now Texas. Children can read more at: Battle of the Alamo.
Alamo fell to Mexico in 1836. The Texas mission-turned-fort had been under siege since February 23, 1836. The last of the soldiers died, and General Santa Anna was victorious for a short time. Children might want to read Sherry Garland’s A Line in the Sand: The Alamo Diary of Lucinda Lawrence. They could also check an excellent website at: Alamo.
Battle of San Jacinto occurred in 1836 in Texas. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and his 1,200 soldiers attacked General Sam Houston and his 910 men. The Texans retreated but then caught the Mexicans in surprise. In less than one half hour, the Texans won. As a result of this battle, Texas won its independence from Mexico. Children could read Journey to San Jacinto (Mr. Barrington’s Mysterious Trunk) by Melodie A. Cuate. Children could also learn more at: San Jacinto.
Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Mexico and the United States. The Battle of Puebla took place in 1862. General Ignacio Zaragoza led his Mexican army, outnumbered three to one, against Napoleon III’s French forces. Zaragoza won. Speeches, festivals, and parades are held nationwide. Young children could read Cinco de Mayo by Mary Dodson Wade. Idea: Children could have a Cinco de Mayo celebration. A piñata should be included.
Spanish conquered Aztecs in 1521. The city of Tenochtitlan fell to Hernan Cortez and his allies. Cortez had arrived on the shores several months before. Montezuma, leader of the Aztecs, felt Cortez might be one of their gods, Quetzalcoatl. Montezuma made the fighters feel welcome, but ultimately the Spanish turned on the Aztecs. Children can read some great background information at: Aztecs.