Cinco de Mayo, which literally translates as “Fifth of May” in Spanish, is an annual celebration held every May 5th to commemorate the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla. Cinco de Mayo is more often celebrated in the U.S. than in Mexico, and nowadays the day is more a celebration of Mexican-American culture. In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is more ceremonial, where military parades and battle reenactments form the basis for most commemorations. Cinco de Mayo is not to be confused with Mexico’s Independence Day, which takes place on September 16.
So, how does one celebrate Cinco de Mayo in London or the UK, where this mostly US-Mexican holiday has become more popular? Here’s a few ways you can spend your Cinco de Mayo weekend …
The Classic Punchbowl Fiesta
All you have to do is put on your sombrero, make a bowl of your favourite punch and call your friends over. Oh, and lots of tasty nibbles to go with all that punch. Think nachos, black bean stews and empanadas. For that true relaxed Mexican Sunday feeling, you could perhaps add a watching of Robert Rodriguez’ Desperado and El Mariachi on for good measure.
Go See a Mariachi Band
There are likely to be several venues throughout London and the UK putting on a Cinco de Mayo evening, and there is likely to be a Mariachi band playing there. Barts in Sloane Square is well-known for its Mexican-themed fiesta, where live bands are likely to be playing and the margaritas are a-flowing. It’s time to get your poncho on and get your maracas ready. Other events are taking place in venues such as the Café Pacifico in Covent Garden and MNKY HSE in Mayfair.
Dancing is a huge part of Cinco de Mayo, where the most well-known dance at this time of year is the Mexican Hat Dance, which is known as Jarabe Tapatío, and is intricately linked with national pride. Whilst they’re not all from Mexico, there are many Latin dance styles that are likely to show up at this time of year, such as salsa and the rumba.
Get Your Feast On
Plenty of food and drink with good friends and family. This is the way many will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Mexico, the U.S. and around other places with a Mexican diaspora. To make a fancy dress occasion of it, you could have a French soldier - Mexican soldier standoff, which could maybe serve as a party game of sorts prior to the tacos, burritos, enchiladas, chalupa, churros and grilled corn.
Get a Piñata Up
Well, if you’re doing one or more of the above and you want to do it properly, you have to get a piñata up. Nothing beats smashing up a beautifully-designed papier mache or cloth container for the sweet treats contained within. The kids agree, and many adults do, too!
Should any of the above somehow fail, you could always dress up as a Mexican wrestler and take up Lucha libre! (Or perhaps just watch Nacho Libre and/or the classic Angel episode ‘The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco’.)