There’s nothing wrong with drinking margaritas at your favorite Mexican restaurant on Cinco de Mayo. But there’s a lot more to this festive holiday than sipping salted rim beverages.
Though many Americans mistakenly think the fifth of May is Mexico’s July 4th, it is not a widely celebrated holiday south of the border. Cinco de Mayo commemorates a single military victory against the French in 1862. Mexico’s real Independence Day is Sept. 16.
Partly due to the excuse it gives Americans to party in the middle of the week, Cinco de Mayo is far more popular with Americans than Mexicans — except for residents of Puebla where the battle took place. Mexican-Americans, however, have turned the holiday into an annual celebration of their ethnic heritage and, with each passing year, more gringos join the festivities.
If your idea of Mexican culture is Taco Bell and tequila shots, here are some better ways to get your Mexican on:
Even if you failed to take Spanish in high school, it’s easy to sprinkle a few Spanish words and phrases into your daily patter. Greet your amigos (friends) with the word hola (hello) and say adios (goodbye) or hasta luego (see you later) when you part. At the grocery store, say gracias instead of “thank you” to the checker. And don’t forget to wish everyone you meet a feliz (happy) Cinco de Mayo.
Make Your Own Tortillas
Authentic Mexicanos would just as soon eat cardboard as buy their tortillas from the supermarket. Surprisingly, it’s not that hard to cook these floury discs yourself. This five-star Alton Brown recipe from the Food Network requires only four ingredients: flour, lard, salt and water.
Make Your Own Maracas
Who doesn’t love the mellow sound of maracas? To make your own Mexican rattles, you’ll need balloons, a cardboard tube, crepe paper and the usual paper mache ingredients. Here’s a great step-by-step guide from wikiHow. When you’re done, find a Mexican radio station and shake to the beat.
Read up on Mexico Current Events
Did you know the Mexican state of Sonora recently prohibited parents from naming their children Burger King or Batman to prevent bullying? Or that the once populous monster-faced sea creature called the Mexican walking fish can no longer be found in Lake Xochimilco? Though Mexico has its fair share of serious news, it rivals the United States for peculiar pop culture stories to spice up your small talk.
Eat the Hottest Pepper You Can Stand
Speaking of spicy, Cinco de Mayo is a great day to test your tongue’s tolerance for heat. The ghost pepper is now considered one of the hottest edible peppers in the world — up to eight times more potent than such hotties as habaneros and Scotch bonnets. Pepper heat is measured in something called Scoville heat units (SHUs), and ghost peppers have about one million of these puppies — more than 400 times that of a jalapeno. According to PepperScale.com, ingesting this chili pepper can cause “hiccups, intense burning, numbness, eye watering, and general sweating.” Muy caliente!