Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat: It’s NOT Mexican Independence Day. That’s September 16th. Cinco de Mayo DOES celebrate the victory of the Mexican army over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The way I read the history of this unofficial* holiday, Cinco de Mayo had its beginnings, not in Puebla—or even Mexico—but rather in California. There, it has been celebrated continuously since 1863. And like many things spawned in California, Cinco de Mayo leaked out into the rest of the country and now has become a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage around the world. It became mainstream in the 1980s when beer companies in the U.S. predictably built on the bloodlines of heavy partying over a victory to institutionalize the day into the American consciousness.
Wallyhood readers might be thinking that this history is all well and good, and perhaps great trivia to share with your seat partners in the uncomfortable unmasked silence as you sit on a packed cross-country flight—but what does it have to do with Cinco de Mayo celebrations in our humble little neighborhood?
Well, it fills space. And without the history, this article would be very brief. As in:
Not much is going on in Wallingford.
By my count, there are eight Mexican or Mexican-themed restaurants in the ‘hood. I visited seven of them and phoned the eighth to ask if they had anything special planned for Cinco de Mayo (this made me think of another potential candidate for Wallyhood’s unofficial motto: “We walk around and ask questions so that you don’t have to”). None had any special plans or menu items. A couple of places acknowledged that their crowds would be bigger than usual. Rogelio, one of the owners at the venerable Varsity Inn, offered some insight into why: Cinco de Mayo is more of a drinking celebration than a dining one, he noted. After all, it’s not as though people wake up on St. Patrick’s Day and say, “Let’s go to Murphy’s and grab a couple rounds of…Irish stew!” I am happy to say that after I inquired, Gloria, the owner at Mas Café, decided to add a Cinco de Mayo offer of buy a burrito, get a free drip coffee. A few blocks over on N. 34th, Pablo y Pablo did say that they would open two hours early (2:00 p.m.). However, in anticipation of heavier-than-normal traffic, their menu will be condensed to facilitate faster service.
So, the gist of Wallyhood’s Cinco de Mayo public service announcement is this: If you intend to eat Mexican on Thursday, go early and/or anticipate lines. Enjoy your coffee at Mas Café. I’m sorry that I can’t announce any other great deals that we’ve arranged for chicken mole or tequila shots. After all…it’s not like we’re the New York Times.
*It is not a national holiday in Mexico, although public schools are closed.