Every May 5, you hear of a holiday called Cinco de Mayo, and, even though you don’t really know what it celebrates, you know that Corona and salty margaritas are half price at the bar around the corner.
Cinco de Mayo (which just means five of May in Spanish) is not Mexican Independence Day (that’s September 16). The day actually commemorates the Battle of Puebla in 1862 when an army of Mexican peasants defeated a much more powerful French force who had tried to take over Mexico, which was in debt to France, during the American Civil War.
If you ask someone in Mexico about Cinco de Mayo, it isn’t a huge deal and is hardly recognized at all outside of Puebla. The holiday is rather more important in the United States and around the world as a celebration of Mexican food and culture. To some extent its just an excuse eat tortilla chips and guacamole and get drunk on Jose Cuervo. This is a big day for Mexico’s alcohol industry in the United States. Everyone is encouraged to “be Mexican for a day.” Sales of Corona, Tecate, Pacifico, and Model beer are at their highest in the year.
While there are so many things wrong with the alcohol industry hijacking a holiday, this time of the year the weather is just starting to get good. There’s a buzz in the air. It really is the ideal time for tacos and reposado.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.