Cinco de Mayo has become another excuse to celebrate all things Mexican – tacos, guacamole, Frida Kahlo, Mariachi music, and Mexican wrestling – and we’re joining the celebrations this year, because we love Mexico and Mexican culture and we reckon it’s as good an excuse as any to celebrate it. Get out the tequila, we’re making margaritas and tacos al pastor!
Before the pandemic, we would never have celebrated Cinco de Mayo, as it’s nowhere near as big a holiday in Mexico as it is in the Mexican diaspora, particularly in the USA, but right now we’ll welcome any excuse to cook Mexican food and celebrate Mexican culture, so here we are.
I’m planning a Mexican feast for tomorrow, Friday 5 May 2023, best known as Cinco de Mayo to Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and other Mexicans in the global diaspora. I’m so up for a fiesta and celebration of all things Mexican, I don’t care that the holiday isn’t as celebrated as widely in Mexico as it is abroad.
When I first published this post on 4 May 2020 during the early months of the global pandemic that paralysed the world, many Mexican-Americans and Mexico-lovers around the world were up for the chance to smash some coronavirus piñatas. I’m Googling how to make them right after I re-publish this post, as it’s three years later and this pandemic still hasn’t ended.
We also have a special relationship with Mexico, the Mexican people and all things Mexican. Mexico was the first country we ever did any proper travelling outside Australia. When we were young and first went overseas, we backpacked the length and breadth of Mexico for six weeks, which seeded a lifelong obsession.
We made numerous trips to Mexico in between that first trip in the Nineties and our 2010 global grand tour that launched Grantourismo, but on that trip we spent a month in Mexico – two weeks in Mexico City and two weeks in San Miguel de Allende – and those four weeks reignited our passion for Mexico.
In between those trips, we learnt some of the Mexican language, cooked a lot of the food, I studied Latin American culture as part of my first Masters degree, and we fell deeply in love with the Mexican people, Mexican history, Mexican music, art, and crafts, so we have more than a soft spot for Mexico, and a strong connection to Mexico’s culture and cuisine.
This is why, if you’re a Mexican reading this, I beg your forgiveness for jumping on the Cinco de Mayo bandwagon, as weird as it is. Please forgive us, as it gives us an excuse to cook some tacos al pastor, make margaritas and micheladas, whip up a bowl of authentic guacamole, and dig into the Grantourismo archives to relive our most memorable travels in Mexico.
I reckon that’s a whole lot better for my sanity than bashing a coronavirus piñata. But maybe I’m wrong.
Cinco de Mayo, An Excuse to Celebrate All Things Mexican
Cinco de Mayo is actually not the major celebration in Mexico that it seems to have become in the USA and elsewhere in the world, where it seems to be just another excuse to wash down plenty of tacos with margaritas. Not that we’re complaining!
A more significant festival for Mexicans in Mexico is the Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos, which was actually the inspiration for our very first trip to Mexico. Mexican Independence Day celebrated on 16 September, is another more important Mexican holiday.
The Día de los Muertos holiday has its roots in pre-Hispanic cultures, for whom the dead live on in spirit, temporarily returning to earth for Day of the Dead. It’s so significant to Mexico and Mexican culture that it has been recognised by UNESCO with an inclusion on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Which brings me back to Cinco de Mayo, which, like Mexican Independence Day, which it is often confused with, is a holiday that’s historic rather than cultural. Cinco de Mayo commemorates Mexico’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla on 5 May, 1862. France, Spain and Britain had invaded Mexico in late 1861, but while Spain and Britain pulled out, France stayed on.
It’s a mystery to many as to how Cinco de Mayo became such a significant date around the world on which to celebrate Mexico and everything Mexican, but I reckon that lovers of all things Mexican just latch onto whatever date they can to use as an excuse to eat Mexican food and make Mexican cocktails.
I know that’s what we’ll be doing, because three years into the pandemic, we all need excuses to celebrate anything right now, and while we don’t need excuses to drink, Cinco de Mayo is a good reason to switch from gin and tonics to margaritas and micheladas for a day or three.
How to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
Mix Yourself a Mexican Drink
Make Mexican Food
Or make another one of our favourite Mexican dishes, such as a traditional sopa de tortilla, or our favourite tacos al pastor from Mexico City’s Salón Corona (I know, an unfortunate name for these times).
Before you get cooking, get in the mood for all things Mexican. You could spend an afternoon we spent on Mexico City’s Zocalo (main plaza) watching a performance by indigenous dancers, an evening following a roaming wedding party through San Miguel’s atmospheric streets, an evening being serenaded by the mariachis on Mexico City’s Plaza Garibaldi, a late night listening to Benjamin Lara in San Miguel de Allende.
Then work up an appetite, by browsing our posts on the Mexican street food specialties we sampled on a tour with Lesley Tellez of Eat Mexico or the modern Mexican cuisine we savoured by Chef Martha Ortiz and the contemporary Mexican cuisine at Mexico City restaurants such as Pujol.
First Published 4 May 2020; Updated and Republished 4 May 2023.