April 20, 2017

#05-033: May Birthdays

oil painting of a bald man in formal clothes, hand on a black book; bookshelf and clock behind him
Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, Father of the Mexican Nation

Note: Three very different birthday celebrants: Mexican Founding Father Miguel Hidalgo; longtime Malawian leader Hastings Banda; and the Irish monk-explorer Saint Brendan.

Get Ready: Do you accept the common idea that Columbus was the first European to come to what is now called North America? Why or why not?

Let's look at some of the interesting people born in May.

First up is Miguel Hidalgo, born May 8, 1753. It was he who, on September 16, 1810, issued the "Cry of Dolores" which began the Mexican War of Independence from Spain. Hidalgo was a priest in the Roman Catholic Church, and gathered his people through the ringing of the church bells before urging them to revolt.

Though born in Mexico, he was full-blooded Spanish. Nevertheless, his sympathies lay with the poor, and after the "Cry," he gathered an army of some 90,000 farmers and other poor folk. The war went on for 11 years; Hidalgo was not to see the end of it, as he was executed by firing squad less than a year after issuing the "Cry." His bullet-riddled body was then decapitated, and the head was displayed by the Spanish as a warning to other insurgents until the war ended. Nevertheless, Mexicans have called him "the Father of the Nation."


On May 14, the people of the southeast African Republic of Malawi celebrate the birth of Hastings Banda, leader of that country from 1961 to 1994 (though for the first three years it was still under British rule, under the name Nyasaland).

He had studied in the U.S. for 12 years, ending up with a medical degree; to satisfy British requirements he then took a second medical degree, in Scotland. He returned to Africa after 26 years abroad, but not to his native land until another seven years had passed, meaning that--with another African sojourn before he left for the U.S.--he had spent 42 years outside of Malawi. Three years later he became de facto president of Nyasaland, and after three more years he chose the name "Malawi." He ultimately became "President for Life," though with his acquiescence he was peaceably stripped of the title three years before his death.


May 16 marks the birthday and feast day of the Irish Saint Brendan, nicknamed "the Navigator" or "the Voyager" for the legendary journey to the "Isle of the Blessed" recorded in an ancient manuscript. Though the account is clearly mythical, scholars have found enough information in it to trace out what was probably a historical voyage--perhaps as far as North America, nearly a thousand years before Columbus.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. acquiescence
  2. bullet-riddled
  3. decapitated
  4. firing squad
  5. insurgents
  6. issued
  7. navigator
  8. stripped of [something]
  9. sympathies
  10. urged

  1. shot full of holes
  2. sent out
  3. agreement; consent
  4. rebels; people using weapons to oppose a government
  5. had [something] removed
  6. insisted on; encouraged
  7. had its head cut off
  8. group of soldiers tasked with shooting a prisoner
  9. feelings; loyalty
  10. one who tells a ship which way to go

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for April 20, 2017

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. c; 2. a; 3. g; 4. h; 5. d; 6. b; 7. j; 8. e; 9. i; 10. f