This year marks the Centenary of the Mexican Revolution. The Revolution started in November of 1910. This month, December, also marks the centenary of an act of kindness towards my grandfather by what some consider a ruthless man. Sometime in the month of December Pancho Villa and my grandfather, Rafael Andrade Avalos, met in the mountains of Michoacan and I am grateful to be able to recognize the event.
Rafael Andrade Avalos was born in Silao, Guanajuato in the 1870s. He met my grandmother, Maria Ramos, around 1900. They had a cattle ranch in Coalcoman and had three children, Domingo, Maria and Rafael. According to my mother's 1984 autobiography, my grandfather was "second officer in command" of the part of the army of Porfirio Diaz (below) that was stationed in Coalcoman. At the start of the Revolution in 1910, Rafael's job was to roust out and execute members of General Villa's army. At least two times, maybe more, he showed clemency to the rebels and spared their lives. One woman pleaded with Rafael to save her husband because they had ten children and she didn't know what she would do if he were to be taken from her. He gave him some money and a horse and told him to "get out of here and never come back -- and take care of your family". One mother pled for her only son's life. Again, a horse, some money and an admonition to to "take care of your mother!" He was sentimental and compassionate -- not the kind of qualities that would serve him well in quashing an insurrection. Traitor or sympathizer?
One hundred years ago, right about now, the third week of December 1910, my grandfather was traveling northeast through the Sierra de Apatzingan towards Guanajuato, taking his wife and son, Rafael to stay with his family during the fighting. Traveling under cover of night, my grandmother was on a horse, my grandfather and 3 year-old little Rafael were walking when a group of revolutionary solders found them took them to their hideout. When they reached their secret camp, they shoved him before the general, who looked at him for a long time and asked, "are you Rafael Andrade?" My grandfather answered, "sí mi general!" It was Pancho Villa, one of the most important and colorful figures of the Mexican Revolution. He ordered the soldiers to let go of him, "because he is my friend".
Pancho Villa and my grandfather chatted and recalled old times. He asked after my grandmother, María. Rafael told him that she was doing well, and that she was about to give birth any day. The general ordered that my grandfather be given a fresh white horse, several sugar loaves (piloncillo), beans and several tablets of chocolate. He said, "here, take this so that María will have lots of milk for the baby. That baby, Eva Maria, was born days after this incident on January 5, 1911 and she was to become my mother. Countless times, when she would make Mexican chocolate (cho-co-LAH-teh) on Saturday nights, she would recount this story to us. Years later, ever the sceptical one, I asked her, "are you sure that happened?" She always said yes and that she remembered having ridden that white horse.
Chocolate de Leche / Mexican Chocolate
1 Mexican Chocolate tablet
1 Quart whole milk
Place chocolate and milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Over medium heat, gradually bring milk to the boiling point, being careful not to burn. When the milk starts to rise, turn the heat down. Again, turn the heat up to make the milke rise and repeat his a third time. By this time, the chocolate will have melted. Using a molinillo, a whisk, or a hand-held electric immersion blender, beat the chocolate until it is foamy and frothy on top. Serve hot in mugs.