Ahh, Cinco de Mayo—margaritas, tequila shots, mariachi music, crowded bars and trouble waiting to happen. At least, that’s the U.S. version of this curious holiday. But here in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo passes pretty much unnoticed, except in the city of Puebla. This is because Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates the Battle of Puebla, when the Mexican army beat back French forces in 1862.
Yes, that’s right, this margarita-guzzling holiday actually celebrates a minor military victory and does not represent Mexican Independence Day, as many believe. Mexican Independence Day is September 16, and that is a real party. Imagine the excitement and chaos of Mexico winning the World Cup (people gathering in the streets, jumping up and down, lighting fireworks) while simultaneously hosting a running of the bulls (drunkenness and tomfoolery) and you might begin to comprehend the awesomeness of that holiday.
(Note: This year marks the 200th anniversary of Mexican independence. We are diligently preparing for Sept. 16th by replacing our windows with bulletproof glass in ordering armor to allow us to make our way through the crowds.)
So, what I’m really trying to say is that Cinco de Mayo is no big shakes in our hometown of Tlaquepaque. But we’re not complaining and here’s why—every day we spend here in Mexico might as well be Cinco de Mayo. When we stroll from our house to the main square in the evenings there are always live mariachi bands playing, and often there are regional dancers performing in colorful costumes. Families gather to listen to the music and eat tasty food from the dozens of street carts lined up around the plaza. Music blast from storefronts and men and women sit outside to enjoy a beer or paloma in the warm spring air. And that’s just on weeknights. Weekends are even more celebratory. Families wander from bandstand to bandstand to listen to live music, and young couples put on their tightest and most bedazzled jeans to makeout on a park bench before going out to do a little salsa.
Why celebrate Cinco de Mayo once a year when you can live it every day?
That said, I’m grateful that Americans get a chance to experience the joyous, carpe diem attitude that Mexicans bring to their everyday life, even if it is just on the 5th of May. So get out there, drink some delicious tequila, toast your good fortune and maybe get into a little bit of trouble.