You might have noticed last week that all the shadiest of bars had strange vinyl signs advertising Corona with iconography reminiscent of a deserted Caribbean island. Then you look a bit further and notice that the cheap eyesore of a banner is actually advertising some kind of Cinco de Mayo celebration- or more appropriately advertising what Corona hopes to become the Mexican "Saint Patrick's Day."
Whereas St. Patrick’s Day commemorates the death of a Saint approximately 1600 years ago, one has the sneaking suspicion that Cinco de Mayo is something somewhat more modern and pressing. While the staff of ginandtacos.com is certainly not opposed to a holiday whose sole purpose is to get drunk and eat tacos, (certainly better than the corned beef and cabbage served on St. Pats Day) there is that nagging feeling that something is wrong. Although he holds the title of patron saint of Ireland, nobody really knows what Saint Patrick did. No, seriously though, the best guess is that he either raised people from the dead and/ or drove snakes from Ireland (Ireland has no native snakes). When considering this mysterious holiday named after a day of the year, but in Spanish, you get the feeling that it actually commemorates something important.
Resolving this mystery is crucial to Taco consumption in the United States. Are we to assume that we are bastardizing some sacred day by engaging in activities such as Guinness Record breaking taco consumption , or should we feel perfectly comfortable turning the fifth of may into a day of drunken taco consuming gluttony.
Some brief research seems to indicate that, for the most part, the holiday is nearly as contrived as its Irish counterpart. Prevailing opinion would have you believe that the fifth of May is Mexican Independence day. Perhaps due to the similar ring to fourth of July. Fortunately for our taco consumption, Cinco de Mayo has absolutely nothing to do with Mexican independence, which is celebrated the 16th of September.
The fifth of May indicates a far less monumental part of history. While the Spanish and British seemed to show no interest in Mexico in the 19th century, the French thought to themselves: “gee, that seems like a good idea.” Their response was to send a meager army to take over Mexico City- presumably because those swarthy Spaniards would not tell them the secret to making a good taco. The French forces numbered somewhere between six and seven thousand depending on your source. On May 5th, 1862 the French army had marched a long distance to the hills around the Mexican city of Peubla. It was here that the Mexican army defended two fortified positions and repelled the French forces.
Yeah, that’s about the gist of it.
Fast forward two years later the French had taken over the country, installed an emperor, freed the native slaves and developed Mexico’s natural resources.
French appointed emperor of Mexico Maximilian of Habsburg
Fast-forward three more years and the Mexicans (with some help from sympathizers in the United States) over throw the emperor and execute him.
Fast-forward another 75 years or so. The United States is host an every increasing number of Mexican immigrants. While the 16th of September is held for celebration of independence, the 5th of May was used as a time to celebrate Mexican culture.
Quickly, cigarette and alcohol manufacturers caught on and began marketing the day as a huge party.
So, the question remains, can we get drunk and eat tacos on the fifth of May with a clear conscience? In a word, yes. Although the day actually means a little more than tacos and beer, the truth is that no one in Mexico really makes a big deal of it. More specifically, the day was co-oped by Mexican-Americans as a celebration of taco and beer consumption.
From Hispania News
How To Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
Ways you can share in the pride and heritage of being Mexican and/or embrace an appreciation for Mexican culture.
- Serve up a platter with Mexican appetizers such as quesadillas, chimichangas and queso fundido (a melted Mexican cheese fondue); all considered authentic alternatives to chips and salsa.
- Add to the main course of tacos and enchiladas by serving grilled carne asada.
- Indulge guests with sopes; a thick tortilla-like sandwich prepared with guacamole, lettuce, tomato, onions and chicken or steak.
- Last but not least, add a festive piñata and mariachi music for non-stop singing and dancing all night long!
To distill….eat Mexican food and have a party.