HUFFPOST‘s collaborator Garin Pirnia, explains why it is OK to eat tacos on “Cinco de Mayo“.
May 5th is Cinco de Mayo, an American-Mexican (not Mexican-American) marketing holiday in which people drink an excessive amount of margaritas and Coronas, stuff their faces with discounted tacos and probably have no idea what the holiday actually represents. So how do you think Mexican chefs feel about this?
First of all, Cinco isn’t a celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day. It’s a celebration of the Battle of Puebla, when on May 5, 1862, Mexico basically kicked Napoleon’s nephew and France out of the country in a brief defeat of colonialism. The war was fought in the east-central state of Puebla, the only region in Mexico that officially acknowledges the holiday.
In the late 1980s, Mexican beer companies discovered they could make loads of money from an Americanized holiday, and, according to The New York Times, it has worked: “In 2013, Americans bought more than $600 million worth of beer for Cinco de Mayo, more than for the Super Bowl or St. Patrick’s Day.”
Despite the commercialism of the holiday and the way people (usually white people) can disrespect Mexican culture by wearing sombreros and fake mustaches, a couple of Mexican chefs are fine with the day.
“Cinco de Mayo is like Taco Bell,” chef Zarela Martinez told HuffPost. “It has given the opportunity for a lot of people to taste Mexican flavors and start establishing a flavor palate.”
Martinez grew up in Mexico and moved to New York City in the ’80s. In 1987, she opened her namesake restaurant, Zarela, which closed in 2011. She’s known for her Mexican regional cooking and, in 2013, the James Beard Foundation inducted her into its Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.
“Cinco de Mayo brings a lot of people into restaurants, and they get exposed to a lot of different flavors. So even though it’s a nightmare when everyone is there drunk and obnoxious sometimes, it’s a great opportunity for businesses to show their work. I think it’s a very good holiday.”
Two years ago, chef Diana Dávila opened her Chicago-based home-cooking restaurant Mi Tocaya Antojería. Since then, she and the restaurant have been nominated for three Beard awards. Dávila said the holiday doesn’t make her mad at all.
“Why wouldn’t I like it? I own a Mexican restaurant,” she told HuffPost. “It makes people want to go out and eat Mexican food on that day…”