Culture

For Christmas, Study Up On Your Culture By Understanding The History Of Sangria

Oh, sweet, sweet sangria. Whether you’re a true wine lover or you just like getting lit—sangria was made for just about everybody. It’s boozy, fruity, fresh, and overwhelmingly delicious, perfect for lounging on a beach or kicking back for a movie night with your clique. Known all over the world for its party-fueling powers, sangria actually has quite a curious history (not to mention its highly exciting present—people all over love its punchy flavor). 

Perhaps you should pour yourself a glass right now—you know, to enhance everything you’re going to learn about this typical Spanish beverage.

Credit: Pinterest

Where does this tasty tonic come from? As is the case with most things food and drink, the answer is not exactly straightforward, though many historians trace sangria all the way back to the Roman Empire. In fact, early Greeks and Romans both used to add different ingredients to their wine, from honey to seeds to warming spices, like cinnamon and clove. This haphazard blending of whatever they could find eventually transformed into a beverage called “hippocras,” which was occasionally heated like today’s vino caliente.

Because water was often undrinkable due to contamination, wine and other alcoholic beverages were widely sought after, since alcohol made the water more potable. The people who inhabited Spain around 1100 BC—though, keep in mind that this part of the world was definitely not known as Spain back then—were preparing a similar drink with Phoenician grapevines. They would follow the Romans’ footsteps a few centuries later.

Although alcohol—wine included—virtually disappeared with the invasion of the Islamic Moors in the 8th century, it made its return nearly 800 years later. And with the return of wine came the return of sangria’s ancestors: concoctions that were similar to today’s blend of wine, local fruit, and the occasional spirit, but which probably took a slightly different form.

Credit: Pinterest

The first traceable mention of sangria didn’t appear until the 1800s, and that original reference is connected to the act of bloodletting—not the drink itself.

And since that first mention of sangria, Spain has really laid claim to this beverage, even though its current incarnation is relatively new. If you’ve visited any part of Spain—most notably Barcelona or Madrid—you’ve likely seen sangria advertised in every restaurant, cafeteria, and chiringuito in sight. It is undeniably delicious, incredibly strong, and something of a tourist magnet, and Spain has really embraced it as a symbol of their culinary identity.

In fact, under European law, all sangria must be made on the Iberian Peninsula in order to be classified as Sangria (much like champagne is only technically champagne if it comes from a certain part of France). To qualify as sangria, the mix must also have less than 12 percent alcohol by volume—which, let’s be honest, is probably not the case of most homemade sangrias served on the beach and at wild Spanish parties. It’s super common add bourbon, brandy, or high-proof liqueurs to the mix, and it’s even more difficult to measure the alcohol percentage of a hand-blended pitcher full of booze.

So how did sangria become such an international superstar?

Credit: Pinterest

It’s true—sangria is beloved by people all over the world, especially in the UK and the US. Sangria’s introduction to the US is said to have happened in 1964 during the New York World’s Fair of that year. As 1964 was less than 60 years ago, sangria’s presence in the US more short-lived than many of New York’s Spanish restaurants, which date back to the Spanish Civil War (a conflict that ended in 1939). At the World’s Fair, the Spanish Pavilion served its guests a refreshing, wine-based fruit punch that was an instant hit, and ever since, sangria has been a highly popular summer drink throughout our country and around the world.

A key difference between Spanish sangria and its international counterparts is the type of wine used. Traditionally, wine from the Rioja region is chosen, although Tempranillo varietals were also commonly used (these are generally full-bodied red wines that are less costly to produce). In the UK, French Bordeaux wine is used most often, a region that usually features Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot grapes. In the US, there is not necessarily one preferred varietal, with sangria instead serving as a sort of canvas for bartenders and restaurateurs to experiment. It seems that every place has its own sangria recipe, revising the original template to create a whole array of tart, inviting, powerful beverages.

Although winter may not seem like the season for sangria, there’s never a wrong moment to enjoy this tasty drink. It’s quick, inexpensive, and easy to make—why not pour a pitcher right now? Salud!

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The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

Culture

The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

Tyrone Turner / Getty Images

Latinos make up the largest minority group in the country, yet our history is so frequently left out of classrooms. From Chicano communities in Texas and California to Latinos in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the Underground Railroad – which also had a route into Mexico – Latinos have helped shape and advance this country.

And as the U.S. is undergoing a racial reckoning around policing and systemic racism, Mexico’s route of the Underground Railroad is getting renewed attention – particularly because Mexico (for the very first time in history) has counted its Afro-Mexican population as its own category in this year’s census.

The Underground Railroad also ran south into Mexico and it’s getting renewed attention.

Most of us are familiar with stories of the Underground Railroad. It was a network of clandestine routes and safe houses established in the U.S. during the early to mid-19th century. It was used by enslaved African Americans to escape into free states and Canada. It grew steadily until the Civil War began, and by one estimate it was used by more than 100,000 enslaved people to escape bondage.

In a story reported on by the Associated Press, there is renewed interest in another route on the Underground Railroad, one that went south into Mexico. Bacha-Garza, a historian, dug into oral family histories and heard an unexpected story: ranches served as a stop on the Underground Railroad to Mexico. Across Texas and parts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas, scholars and preservation advocates are working to piece together the story of a largely forgotten part of American history: a network that helped thousands of Black slaves escape to Mexico.

According to Maria Hammack, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin studying the passage of escapees who crossed the borderlands for sanctuary in Mexico, about 5,000 to 10,000 people broke free from bondage into the southern country. Currently, no reliable figures currently exist detailing how many left to Mexico, unlike the more prominent transit into Canada’s safe haven.

Mexico abolished slavery a generation before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Thirty-four years before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, in 1829, Mexican President Vicente Guerrero, who was of mixed background, including African heritage, abolished slavery in the country. The measure freed an estimated 200,000 enslaved Africans Spain forcefully brought over into what was then called New Spain and would later open a pathway for Blacks seeking freedom in the Southern U.S.

And he did so while Texas was still part of the country, in part prompting white, slave-holding immigrants to fight for independence in the Texas Revolution. Once they formed the Republic of Texas in 1836, they made slavery legal again, and it continued to be legal when Texas joined the U.S. as a state in 1845.

With the north’s popular underground railroad out of reach for many on the southern margins, Mexico was a more plausible route to freedom for these men and women.

Just like with the northern route, helping people along the route was dangerous and could land you in serious trouble.

Credit: Library of Congress / Public Domain

Much like on the railway’s northern route into Canada, anyone caught helping African-Americans fleeing slavery faced serious and severe consequences.

Slaveholders were aware that people were escaping south, and attempted to get Mexico to sign a fugitive slave treaty that would, like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that demanded free states to return escapees, require Mexico to deliver those who had left. Mexico, however, refused to sign, contending that all enslaved people were free once they reached Mexican soil. Despite this, Hammock said that some Texans hired what was called “slave catchers” or “slave hunters” to illegally cross into the country, where they had no jurisdiction, to kidnap escapees.

“The organization that we know today as the Texas Rangers was born out of an organization of men that were slave hunters,” Hammack, who is currently researching how often these actions took place, told the AP. “They were bounty hunters trying to retrieve enslaved property that crossed the Rio Grande for slave owners and would get paid according to how far into Mexico the slaves were found.”

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Alaina Castillo’s New TikTok Video Is Empowering People To Embrace Their Latinidad

Culture

Alaina Castillo’s New TikTok Video Is Empowering People To Embrace Their Latinidad

Not everyone has the privilege of growing up surrounded by their cultura, with parents there to pass on knowledge of traditions and customs from home. That, combined with heavily opinionated internet trolls, has led to many people struggling to feel confident in their identity. In a digital world that tries to force us all to fit into boxes, what does “Latino enough” mean and how do you know if you’re there?

Recently, we asked our Instagram community “what does being Latino mean to you?” and although some responses had details in common, for the most part they were as unique as every member of the community itself. There is no one definition of Latinidad, and therefore there is no way to measure what exactly makes someone “Latino enough.”

We got the chance to talk to Alaina Castillo, musical artist and TikTok Queen, about how she identifies with Latinidad and what this TikTok video means to her.

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Checklists don’t define you so don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re not enough! 😤@alainacastillo #AreYouLatinoEnough #FamiliaLatina #hhm #orgullo

♬ original sound – we are mitu

What does being Latina mean to you? – mitú

“It means that I have something to identify with and be proud of because of my family members, my culture, and the things that I participate in as a Latina.” – A.C.

Side note, this was a personal reminder that we represent the community wherever we occupy space, whether we realize it or not. We are all participating in things as members of the community.

What’s something that, as a Latina, you are proud of? – mitú

“The strength and endurance that we have. I’ve seen it in my dad, his family, and so many others and it makes me feel proud as well as encouraged to achieve my goals with the same mindset as them.” – A.C.

While they may not be perfect (and let’s face it, who is?), our parents are the definition of hard working. Remembering that their blood runs through my veins always keeps me going when the going gets tough. Si se puede!

What Latino figures inspire you? – mitú

“Selena, even though she was an artist that I didn’t really grow up listening to. When I found out who she was, she was someone who I related to because she was a Mexican-American learning to speak and sing in Spanish, while breaking a lot of barriers that people had set up around her.” – A.C.

La Reina del Tex-Mex was a trailblazer indeed! Who else could forget Selena’s iconic “diecicuatro” blurb when she appeared in an interview with Cristina Saralegui? The important thing to focus on is that she was TRYING! As long as we’re all working on improving and being the best versions of ourselves, that’s the best we can do, and it’s okay to make mistakes along the way.

IMAGE COURTESY OF ALAINA CASTILLO

Name one meal that, no matter where you have it, always reminds you of home. – mitú

“Homemade tamales!!!! 100%” – A.C.

You know we love some good tamales, so naturally our next question was…

Where is your family from? – mitú

“My dad is from Mexico and my mom is from Ohio.” – A.C.

Mmmm…Mexican tamales 😋

Have you ever been to those places? – mitú

“Yes, both places. I went to Mexico when I was really young, maybe about two times, and then I’ve traveled to Ohio on various occasions to see family. I was young each time I went to those places so they’re little memories I think of when I miss my family.” – A.C.

What would you say is the most “Latino” item in your home? – mitú

“We have these blankets from my grandma that I grew up using. I thought they were normal blankets but then I saw on social media that almost every Latino household has some and I was like hmmm, what do you know?” – A.C.

IMAGE COURTESY OF ALAINA CASTILLO

What would you say to people who think that not speaking Spanish makes you less Latino? – mitú

“I think it’d definitely be nice to know the language fluently but some people aren’t taught Spanish growing up and that’s not their fault. Not speaking the language doesn’t mean that they don’t have the same customs or should be rejected from the culture that their family is from. I decided to learn on my own because I’ve always been interested in Spanish, and also so I could speak with my family and I see that’s what a lot of other people are doing too.” – A.C.

One more time for the people in the back: not speaking Spanish doesn’t make you any less Latino.

How do you celebrate your Latinidad? – mitú

“With pride. I wouldn’t be who I am today without influences from my family so it’ll always be something I carry with me and proudly show throughout my life and career.” – A.C.

What do you hope people take away from this trend? – mitú

“That Latinidad is something you’re born with and it can’t ever be taken away from you,” – A.C.

So forget about the opinions of other people! All they’re doing is projecting their beliefs onto you and that is not an actual reflection of who you are. We hope you are inspired to embrace your Latinidad on your own terms, and that you walk more confidently in your identity. So duet us on TikTok and don’t forget to use the hashtag #AreYouLatinoEnough to join in on the fun!

Did we mention quarantine has not stopped Alaina Castillo from dropping new music? Check out her latest single, “tonight,” below!

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com