While the annual holiday on May 5 (not to be confused for Mexico's Independence Day) commemorates the Mexican Army's victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, restaurants in the U.S. have taken to offering patrons discounts on margaritas, shots, and tacos.
Americans can expect the trend to continue this year. Below, a list of some of the best Cinco de Mayo restaurant specials:
Chili's: Customers can buy any beer or margarita for just $5. Drinks will be served in a special Cinco de Mayo cup that they can take home with them.
Moe's Southwest Grill: The first 100 customers in line at participating Moe's will receive a free holiday T-shirt. Some locations will also offer $5 burritos throughout the day.
TGI Fridays: The chain is offering deals on its signature Casamigos Strawberry ‘Ritas and Suaza ‘Ritas.
Chuy's: The Tex-Mex restaurant is offering drink specials on frozen margaritas, Coronas, and more.
Margarita's Mexican Restaurant: Customers who arrive before 4 p.m. will receive access to all you can eat nachos and $5 house margaritas. Select locations will also host outdoor parties with live music and giveaways.
On the Border: Participating locations will offer $5 Cinco 'Ritas, $10 Top Shelf 'Ritas, as well as specials on beers and shots.
TacoTime: The chain is offering tacos for 79 cents each.
Bahama Breeze: The restaurant is offering $5 classic margaritas, with some locations additionally hosting block parties with $3 bottled beers, 2 for $5 tacos and empanadas, plus live entertainment.Tijuana Flats: Customers can enjoy $2 Mexican draft beers on the 5th, and $2 tacos, chips and salsa and churros on May 6th and 7th.
|A reenactment of the battle of Puebla for the Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the city. Photograph: El Universal/Rex/Shutterstock|
Puebla in the spotlight: month-long celebrations begin for Cinco de Mayo
It is a popular misconception that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican independence (which is actually on the 16 September). Instead, it commemorates an improbable military victory, when the Mexican army beat French forces on 5 May 1862 after Napoleon III invaded the country.
In the US the festivity has evolved into a celebration of Mexican-American culture – during which 81m pounds of avocados are consumed and $2.9bn is spent on margaritas each year. In Mexico Cinco de Mayo isn’t such big a deal – except in Puebla where the battle was fought.
Cinco de Mayo brings more than 300,000 visitors to the city across the month of May. The battle of Puebla is reenacted on the original site, and a huge parade across the city features Mariachis, colourful costumes, tacos, dancing and fireworks. The battle still holds symbolic significance – even if the French won their counterattack a year later.
Located on the other side of the Popocatépetl volcano from Mexico City, Puebla is a fast-growing metropolis with a Unesco World Heritage colonial centre and a rich culture, gastronomy and artisanship. It prides itself on some classics of Mexican cuisine, such as mole poblano.
The city was founded almost 500 years ago by groups of Spaniards as a transit city between Mexico City and Veracruz. Today it mixes a historical conservative core with a liberal, cosmopolitan present. “It’s an eclectic, Baroque place, characterised by kindness, but also distrust – sometimes it’s a bit two-faced. While in the coast people talk loudly, Pueblans are heard through whispers. If you get on public transport here, people will speak in murmurs,” says Óscar Alarcón, professor, writer and director at neotraba.
Puebla has seen a huge resurgence of culture and tourism in the last few years, which many attribute to the influx of students to the Autonomous University of Puebla and similar institutions.
The city in numbers …
4th largest city in Mexico, following Mexico City, Ecatepec and Guadalajara
450 metres – the width of the nearby Cholula pyramid, the largest in the world, which is partly hidden inside a mountain
15 the number of years it took the Puebla state to get recognised as one of the certified origin areas for mezcal. It happened this March, though 116 municipalities in the region have been producing it since colonial times
13 metres – the height of Cuexomate, a geyser often mistakenly called the smallest volcano in the world located in the centre of town. It’s said that in ancient times the bodies of those who had committed suicide were thrown into the geyser’s eight metre crater as it was believed they didn’t deserve a proper burial
2015 the year of the last alleged UFO sighting in nearby Popocatépetl volcano. The area of Atlixco, close to the city, is famous among aficionados
Puebla in sound and vision
Tear This Heart Out by Roberto Sneider is perhaps the most emblematic film featuring Puebla. Based on a novel by Ángeles Mastretta, it is set in the city in the 1930s and follows an arranged marriage between a young woman and a politician.
The city itself breeds a diversity of music. Puebla-based novelist Aura Xilonen says: “Bands set up in markets and they play music all night: mambo, tropical, tambora, cumbia and bachata. My friends listen to everything from Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert or Schumann, current electronic music or your Gagas and Biebers, to rarities like John Cage or the strangest Mexican musician that’s ever lived: Julián Carrillo.”
History in 100 words
Puebla was founded by the Spanish in 1531, initially as Ciudad de los Ángeles (City of Angels). It was designed to be a town for Spaniards – a legacy that is still alive today – as they passed through between Veracruz and Mexico City. It has been in constant growth since, becoming the fourth-largest city in the country. In 1862, it played a symbolic role in Mexico’s history when the Battle of Puebla stopped French troops from invading Mexico City – albeit temporarily. Today, it is reinventing itself as a tourist hub in its own right, despite its proximity to the capital.
What’s everyone talking about?
Unlike much of Mexico, Puebla has not been as affected by narco violence; at the moment the biggest issue is the rising number of femicides. This week, the grim count reached 37 women and girls killed – often by their partners – since the beginning of the year. “It’s not so much related to narco as to a daily problem inside the Mexican macho’s mindset that still endures,” says Alarcón.
Another talking point are the huachicoleros, or oil thieves, who put illegal taps into the fuel pipeline network to sell on the black market. The problem became prominent when a huge Audi plant opened in Puebla in October 2016, and this type of illegal trade proliferated around its construction.
The people also don’t particularly trust their government, says Pueblan author Jaime Mesa. He says it’s mostly due to government spending on gigantic infrastructure projects, such as an elevated cycling lane that has been criticised for squandering money. On the other hand, the mayor, Luis Banck, has made a point of using public transport and has spearheaded a yearly Day without Cars (a Mexican politician on a bike is a rare sight). The city also recently inaugurated a public bike-sharing system.
What’s next for the city?
Four years away from celebrating its half millennium, Puebla is continuing to expand. The city council wants to consolidate it as a place not just to visit, but to move to – and they cite Barcelona as a model. To that end, it has restored much of its heritage property and built 20 museums; and it is hosting Latin America’s first Smart Cities conference in June. However, the city faces some internal challenges like uncontrolled growth in neighbourhoods in the south, growing inequality, and cleaning up its river, the Atoyac, polluted by decades of residue dumping.
Lado B stands out for its fierce independence from any government influence. It publishes investigative journalism on Puebla and was recently consulted by the New York Times for a story on hacking an internal election in Puebla’s Pan political party. Neotraba, e-consulta and Leviatán are all reliable.
More Mexican-Americans saying 'meh' to Cinco de Mayo
For years, Yazmin Irazoqui Ruiz saw Cinco de Mayo as a reason to eat tacos and listen to Mexican music.
The 25-year-old Mexican-born medical student left Mexico for the U.S. as a child and celebrates the day to honor a homeland she hardly remembers.
But the Albuquerque resident said she's reluctant to take part in Cinco de Mayo festivities this year as President Donald Trump steps up federal immigration enforcement and supporters back his call for the building of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"I mean, what is it about? You want to eat our food and listen to our music, but when we need you to defend us, where are you?" Irazoqui Ruiz asked about the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment in the country.
She isn't alone. Trump's immigration policies and rhetoric are leaving some Mexican Americans and immigrants feeling at odds with a holiday they already thought was appropriated by beer and liquor companies, event promoters and bars.
Hazy history, marketing hype
Latino activists and scholars say that ambivalence is bolstered by the hazy history of Cinco de Mayo and by stereotypes exploited by marketers.
The once-obscure holiday marking a 19th century-battle between Mexico and invading French forces is now a regular celebration in the U.S., where party-goers flock to bars for cheap margaritas and tacos. Television beer commercials often show mostly white actors on a beach celebrating.
"The narrative around Cinco de Mayo seems to say, 'this day really isn't yours'," said Cynthia Duarte, a sociology professor at California Lutheran University.
Tequila company Jose Cuervo is playing off the notion that the holiday is largely overlooked south of the border by throwing a party in a small Missouri town called Mexico. More than 90 percent of people there are white and less than 2.5 percent of Mexican descent.
The company is marketing the event on its Facebook page as "Mexico's First Cinco de Mayo."
"Consumers consistently tell us that Cinco de Mayo is a great way for them to reconnect with people they care about and enjoy a few cervezas," said John Alvarado, vice president of marketing for Corona beer, which is made by Anheuser-Busch InBev.
What it really commemorates
Often mistaken for Mexican Independence Day (Sept. 16), Cinco de Mayo commemorates the 1862 Battle of Puebla between the victorious ragtag army of largely Mexican Indian soldiers against the invading French forces of Napoleon III. The day is barely observed in Mexico, but was celebrated in California by Latinos and abolitionists who linked the victory to the fight against slavery.
During the Chicano Movement of the 1970s, Mexican Americans adopted Cinco de Mayo for its David vs. Goliath story line as motivation in civil rights struggles.
This year, some immigrant enclaves have canceled or reduced Cinco de Mayo celebrations over fears that party-goers could be exposed to possible deportation. In Philadelphia, a Cinco de Mayo-related celebration was scrapped after organizers determined turnout would drop over concerns about immigration raids.
Others worry that parties could take a cruel spin, with revelers, emboldened by Trump's crackdown, mocking and even attacking Mexicans. In Waco, Texas, a college fraternity at Baylor University was suspended after throwing a Cinco de Mayo party where students reportedly dressed as construction workers and maids and chanted "Build that Wall," a reference to Trump's signature campaign promise. The party sparked an investigation and campus protest.
"I don't like to be so angry or shut people down for celebrating," said Joanna Renteria, a Mexican-American blogger in San Francisco. "But when anyone makes an ignorant comment about my culture, it does affect me."
She plans to celebrate by wearing a huipil — a loose tunic designed with colorful patterns of birds and flowers.
'It's not even a Mexican drink, bro'
Mexican-American rapper Kap G appeared in a Black Entertainment Television sketch in which he argues about the origin of margaritas — a drink with a murky history — at an office meeting.
"It's not even a Mexican drink, bro," the Georgia-based entertainer says before hammering a piñata against a table in a fit of rage.
Not everyone is turned off by Cinco de Mayo. Randy Baker, owner of the popular Rio Bravo Brewing Co. in Albuquerque, is unveiling the brewery's new German-style beer Imperial Kolsch on Cinco de Mayo. The brewery is calling it Fünf de Mayo.
In Colorado Springs, a nonprofit group that provides scholarships for Hispanic students is holding a Cinco de Mayo "Fiesta & Car Show" featuring mariachi music and dances. Orlando. Florida, is throwing a Chihuahua dog race, and other cities are hosting Cinco de Mayo beauty pageants.
Some other places may not celebrate at all.
Jose Luis Santiago, an immigration advocate, said migrant workers in Homestead, Florida, are more likely to celebrate Mexican Mother's Day on May 10 and leave the Cinco de Mayo drinking and partying to ritzy neighborhoods.
"Maybe we will get together and barbecue, but I don't think it's that big of a deal for us," Santiago said.