The days are getting warmer — it’s time to celebrate. Grab your tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole, burritos and tacos, and of course those margaritas, and party it up for Cinco de Mayo. The fifth of May has become a huge party holiday in America, and it’s the perfect opportunity to honor Mexican culture, indulge in Mexican food, and drink lots of tequila — much as we celebrate our Irish heritage (real or imagined) with Irish fare and spirits on St. Patrick’s Day.
Cinco de Mayo celebrates everything Mexican, but it shouldn’t be confused with Mexican Independence Day, which is on September 16. The origin of Cinco de Mayo was a tide-turning 1861 battle in the city of Puebla during the French occupation of Mexico. This unexpected victory against Napoleon III, called “Batalla de Puebla,” grew to symbolize Mexican unity and patriotism. It showed that Mexico and Latin America were willing to defend themselves against foreign intervention.
Even though this battle was fought on Mexican soil, Cinco de Mayo is not a big day in Mexico. Believe it or not, the holiday is celebrated on a larger scale in the United States. In fact in Mexico, only the capital, Mexico City, and Puebla have sizeable observances. Who knew?
Here, Cinco de Mayo is cause for a blowout that can extend to an entire week and that includes parades, festivals, music, dancing, and food. Mexican food is incredibly popular on Cinco de Mayo; however, there are no set traditional foods for the holiday. Typical Cinco de Mayo foods include tacos, burritos, gorditas, chalupas, nachos, chimichangas, enchiladas, fajitas, flautas, tamales, taquitos, tostadas, and quesadillas.
In honor of Puebla, include some tasty mole poblano, a sauce made of chiles with a hint of chocolate that originated in a convent there, on your fiesta menu. “Poblano” describes all things from Puebla. So bring on the poblano peppers and read up on some other things you might not know about the holiday.
The Battle of Puebla could have changed the course of U.S. history. At the time, the United States was enmeshed in the Civil War and France was eyeing a weakened America. Had the French gotten a stronghold in Mexico, their forces probably would have aided the Confederacy, thus potentially changing the outcome of the Civil War.
Guacamole has become essential to any Cinco de Mayo party. The California Avocado Commission estimates that 87.3 million pounds of avocado were consumed in the United States on the holiday in 2013. That’s way more than on Super Bowl Sunday.