Still celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Texas but maybe next year in London!


Crone and Son 1995

Crone and Son in London, May 5, 1995

Twenty years ago Husband, Son and I spent Cinco de May in London

and celebrated at the Texas Embassy Cantina with margaritas and mariachis.

Since then every Cinco de Mayo I say, “Next year in London!”

Alas, another year has passed without returning to London.

In 2012 I wrote a post about celebrating Cinco de May in London.

Here is the link for those who missed it and may be interested. https://coastalcrone.com/2012/04/15/next-year-in-london/

Unfortunately, as far as I know the Texas Embassy Cantina  is closed, but I would settle for another trip to London.

Advertisements

Next Year in London!


“There’s the Texas Embassy!  And they’re celebrating Cinco de Mayo,” I blurted out from the back of the classic black London cab.  My fellow passengers, husband and son, looked at me as if I had drank one too many pints of ale with my lunch.

It had been an American Express moment.  Husband had lost his wallet on our second day in London, and we were retracing our steps back to a shop near Trafalgar Square.  Fortunately, a salesperson had found the wallet where it had been left behind when he was paying for some items.  Counting out those pounds and unfamiliar coins was still new to us, tourists that we were.  Once the financial crisis was over I explained that the embassy was actually a restaurant called Texas Embassy Cantina, and because it was May 5, they were celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

When Texas was an independent country, from 1836 to 1845, an embassy was established in 1842 in London in the offices of Berry Brothers wine store at #3 James Street.  With Ashbel Smith as the new country’s Minister to the Court of St. James, diplomatic relations were friendly between the outspoken Texans and the reserved British.  Texas joined the Union in 1845 and the embassy was closed.  Today a small plaque marks the location:

TEXAS LEGATION

 In this building was
The legation for the
Ministers from the
Republic of Texas
to the
Court of Saint James
1842 – 1845

Erected by
The Anglo-Texan Society

     British novelist Graham Greene founded the Anglo-Texas Society in 1953 and served as its first president.  The group’s    main objective was to foster closer social and cultural ties between Britain and Texas.  Greene’s biographer, Norman Sherry, recounts the more light-hearted origins of the society and relations between the stiff British and the  rowdy Texans in his book, The Life of Graham Greene, Volume II.   In 1976 the Anglo-Texan Society was offically dissolved.

     Over 150 years later Texans visiting the city can feel right at home the moment they walk into the Texas Embassy Cantina at No. 1 Cockspur Street, only a short distance from the original embassy.  Located in the impressive and historic Oceanic House with the Lone Star flying proudly outside, it could be mistaken for a real embassy – this is London after all.  Not far away are Buckingham Palace, No. 10 Downing Street, Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the National Portrait Gallery.  The building itself has historical links to America as it formerly housed the White Star shipping line that owned the Titanic.  After the Titanic sank on its way to New York, relatives and friends came to the building to check the list of survivors.

tx-cantina

The inspiration for the restaurant in the heart of London came from Texas oilman Russell J. Ramsland, Jr. and attorney A. Hardcastle, both of Dallas, who missed Tex-Mex food when they traveled.  With a successful Dallas restaurateur, Gene Street, and a former Lord Mayor of London, Sir Alan Traill, the group planned for three years.  Dallasite Thom Jackson is the general manager today.

The decor is typical Tex-Mex restaurant style found in many Texas cities and towns – fiesta lights, border town atmosphere, weathered doors and windows, faux plaster walls, serapes and the mandatory tortilla factory.  Upstairs an 1880s saloon has been recreated with a 29-foot bar and the obligatory nude painting hanging above it.  Texas icons and flags complete the illusion of being in the Lone Star State.  One could easily imagine a couple of tall, tough, Texas Rangers swaggering in at any moment, the jangle of spurs, the scrape of a boot on a bare wooden floor, the scent of liquor and dusty heat.  Or maybe Chuck Norris.

Dishes on the menu will satisfy the cuisine cravings of most any homesick Texan, from chips and salsa to fajitas and flan, Mexican beer and margaritas with familiar sounding names like Hill Country Peach and Padre Island.  Yet the food has a certain English twist that one can’t quite explain.  I suppose it is to pacify the local and international palates also. But for Texans far from home and tired of ale and plowman’s lunch, it is a haven.

Texas Embassy Cantina

Crone and Son in London, May 1995

Returning to the restaurant that night for dinner and the celebration of Cinco de Mayo, we did feel at home as we enjoyed Tex-Mex cuisine served with London panache. Mariachis dressed in authentic black attire and sombreros, appearing suspiciously British, sang “El Rancho Grande” upon our request as they strolled among the tables.

Despite the differences of the past, the people of Texas and Mexico continue to share more than just the Rio Grande.  Today Cinco de Mayo is celebrated across America in many cities by those of Hispanic descent and other U.S. citizens who support freedom and liberty for all people.  Relations continued strong between America and Britain when Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush, the former governor of Texas, met and agreed on many issues.

Now each Cinco de Mayo I vow, “Next year in London!”

Graham Greene and the Anglo-Texan Society


Anne L. Armstrong of Texas was the United States Ambassador to Brittain  from 1976-1977 and was the first woman to hold that diplomatic post.  Writer Graham Greene did his part to foster good relationships between Texas and Brittain.  His biographer, Norman Sherry, chronicles Graham’s efforts  in his book, “The Life Of Graham Greene, Volume II, 1939-1955.”

graham-greene1

“The Life of Graham Greene, Volume II, 1939-1955” by Norman Sherry

It was 1953.  Greene and John Sutro  were in Edinburgh to see a play and were having drinks before the play when a group of Texans on a conducted tour of Norway and happened to be passing through Edinburgh.  Two attractive young ladies from the group, Miss Crosby and Miss Alexander, ended up attending the play with Greene and Sutro and were shown around the city later in the evening by them.

The next day the traveling Texans continued their tour. Greene and Sutro took a train back to London and on the way while drinking black velvets decided something must be done to help friendly Texans who were visiting England.  As a joke they decided that they would found an Anglo-Texan Society and placed a letter in The Times soliciting members.  The interest was suprising and thus the hoax became reality.  At one point Sutro organized a meeting at the Denham studios.  The air force brought over three steers from the Houston Fat Stock Show for the festivities.  Over 1,500 Anglo-Texan members showed up.  The American ambassador showed up and was redesignated by Texas Governor Allen Shivers as Texas ambassador to Great Brittain.  A good time was had by all.  The society was active until 1976. When John Sutro died his obituary mentioned the fact that he and Green had formed the Anglo-Texan Society to promote friendship between Texas and Brittain.  Sherry quotes Greene on the formation of the society with, “…what started this great event was the ignoble hilarity of two tipsy travellers when they plotted their little joke.”  Who knew Graham Greene had a sense of humor?  He died in 1991.

 The Harry Ransom Center(HRC) at the University of Texas at Austin has obtained several collections of Greene’s papers and letters.  I think that he would be pleased.  Check out this site at the HRC for pictures of the young ladies and more details of their trip and encounter with Greene and Sutro.  http://www.utexas.edu/opa/blogs/culturalcompass/tag/john-sutro/