Cinco de Mayo has become another excuse to celebrate all things Mexican – tacos, guacamole, Frida Kahlo, Mariachi music, and Mexican wrestling – and in May 2020 during a global pandemic that has paralysed the world, smash some coronavirus piñatas. Get out the tequila, we’re making margaritas and tacos al pastor tonight!
It’s a weird world that we live in right now, which is why the fact that the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo – which strangely seems to be celebrated more outside Mexico, particularly in the USA, than in the country itself – has coincided with #TacoTuesday (an internet event that began in the USA from a real world custom) and has gone and broken the internet. And if you don’t know what Taco Tuesday is then you may want to browse my Cambodian soup recipes or take a look at Terence’s Cambodian barbecue recipe series.
We adore Mexico and all things Mexican. Mexico was the first country we ever did any proper travelling in outside Australia when we were young and first went overseas many years ago (we backpacked its length and breadth for six weeks, which seeded a lifelong obsession) and we spent a month in Mexico – two weeks in Mexico City and two weeks in San Miguel de Allende – on the global grand tour that launched Grantourismo more than a decade ago.
We returned in between those trips, learnt some of the language, cooked a lot of the food, I studied Latin American culture, and we fell deeply in love with the people, history, 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 I beg your forgiveness for jumping on the Cinco de Mayo bandwagon, as silly as it is, 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 – which I reckon is a whole lot better for my sanity than bashing a coronavirus piñata, which appears to be a popular activity today. But maybe I’m wrong.
Cinco de Mayo, An Excuse to Celebrate All Things Mexican – And Smash Some Coronavirus Pinatas
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 have become just another excuse to wash down plenty of tacos with margaritas. Not that we’re complaining!
Which is why I said above that it’s another excuse for us non-Mexicans to celebrate everything Mexican that we love. A more significant festival to 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, as well as Mexican Independence Day celebrated on 16 September, although that’s more historic rather than cultural.
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 recognized 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 me 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 I’m doing, because 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.
So, here’s how to celebrate Cinco de Mayo wherever you may be self-isolating in the world:
Make Mexican food! Depending on what time of day it is wherever you reading this (because it’s never too early to drink cocktails of course!), you could make a Mexican breakfast of spicy eggs, such as huevos rancheros, huevos con chorizo or huevos revueltos con chorizo.
It’s nearing lunch time where you are? Make one of our favourite soups, 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 by doing some virtual travelling as you browse some of our other posts…
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.