Today is Cinco de Mayo -- the fifth of May! It commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over France in 1862 at the Battle of Puebla. The event was part of the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). Though a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo in the U.S. has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations. Some of the largest festivals are held in Los Angeles, Chicago and, of course, right here in Houston.
Like most Houstonians, I always look forward to Cinco de Mayo and all the hoopla that accompanies it. As is tradition, I gather with friends at our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant to enjoy being together and a bit of everything (well, most everything) on the menu.
Houston is recognized as the most diverse city in the United States, so it should surprise no one that my circle of close friends reflects that.
Tonight, there are 10 of us - four Anglos, two African Americans, one Asian American, two Latinas and one who proudly claims a DNA of mixed origin.
Despite the diversity, we all show up at the restaurant dressed for the occasion. The men are in jeans and brightly colored shirts. At least one wears a sombrero. The women wear white, hand-embroidered peasant blouses with jeans (or long and colorful ruffled skirts), concho belts and lots of turquoise and silver jewelry. As a group, we are a site to behold!
We start our festivities by ordering an ice-cold pitcher of margaritas - frozen with salt around the rim. Then, we order chips and hot sauce, chili con queso and guacamole. And, as is tradition, we eat more than we should.
Next, we order platers of tacos and enchiladas and tamales, along with family-size bowls of Spanish rice and charro beans. Again, we eat way too much!
But, we hardly notice. The talk is always lively, and disruptions are frequent. Other friends are spotted around the room, and getting up and down to extend welcome hugs and cheek kisses is constant. Musicians stroll between the tables playing some of the best known of the Mexican ballads and, without apology or concern, someone in our group invariably breaks out in song. Others get up to dance.
Nobody at the tables around us seems to mind. Like us, they are there to celebrate Cinco de Mayo too. Like us, they fully realize, it is a day that offers unique opportunities and, of course, a day that comes but once a year!