Let me start by saying I welcome any excuse to break out the tequila. I don't need a holiday to bust out some chile-roasted pork tacos -- but if that's the plan for May 5, I'm totally down with it. It's just that there's something about Cinco do Mayo that has real Mexicans a leetle perplexed: what is it that Americans are celebrating, exactly?
If you really think about it, we should actually be serving French food on Cinco de Mayo. We should be munching croissants, tossing back glasses of champagne, slurping up escargot and foie gras, chowing down on Napoleons, those multi-layered, cream-filled pastries. Skip the steak fajitas and have some steak frites instead. Trade your wide-brimmed sombrero and put on your ooh-la-la beret.
Cinco de Mayo is really all about France.
Cinco de Mayo commemorates a battle the Mexican Army won against the French in 1862. What were the French doing in Mexico? Oh, something about some debts Mexico wanted the French to just forget. France occupied Mexico through the 1860s, and while the May 5 Battle of Puebla was a morale boost for Mexico, it didn't even end the French occupation. Mexico didn't give France the boot until years later when the US stepped in to help.
And by the way, that was the last time a European country attempted to invade a country in the Americas. (Unless you count The People's Republic of IKEA.)
Okay, sorry about the long history lesson. Are you still with me? The point is, it's not a major holiday in Mexico. It's more like our National Waffle Day -- you're maybe vaguely aware of it if someone mentions it but otherwise it's just another day at the office for you.
In fact, when it comes to Mexico, France, and Cinco de Mayo, this holiday should be all about the chocolate. Cocoa is native to Mexico, but before the Europeans came along, they were grinding it up with corn and spices to make a drink called atole. Silly Aztecs! Leave it to the French to take those cocoa beans, combine them with sugar and cocoa butter, and spin out the magic we all know of as chocolate.
This Cinco de Mayo I tip my chocolate bar to both Mexico and France.
Image via David Leggett/Flickr