Today I shall write what pitiful little I know about the actual holiday, Cinco de Mayo. I was not raised celebrating this holiday so it took me a while to figure it out. I am not Mexican, just so you know. I am not a citizen of Mexico. I am not an immigrant from Mexico, whether legally or illegally. To my knowledge, my parents are not Mexican, and I believe I have no ancestors who are Mexican either.
However, in my refrigerator are two chicken enchiladas that I plan to eat tomorrow night. I like Jose Cuervo Especial tequila. I like Corona, though I prefer a domestic brew like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (brewed in Chico, California). I like tacos. I have lived on chips and salsa. I used to really enjoy the fajitas and pitchers of slushy blended margaritas at Chevy’s by the levee. I even like Carlos Santana, and I have read some books by Carlos Castaneda. I think Penelope Cruz could give me a woody. But for all that, I’m not really a Mexican.
It was not until after my thirtieth birthday that I researched the origins of the holiday, Cinco de Mayo. As far as I can tell, it is a celebration to commemorate the battle of Puebla, which I imagine everyone knows, who celebrates this holiday. The details of the battle of Puebla are far from honorable and I shall recite them here to the best of my ability.
The town of Puebla was occupied by a professionally trained army of six thousand Frenchmen. They had uniforms and rifles and everything, and they were playing some part in some political power-grab, which I don’t think I need to go into here. Suffice it to say that there were Europeans other than the Spanish who were interested in the possession of Mexico.
The Mexican army sought to roust these Frenchmen, but they had little to work with. The actual force that attacked was approximately composed of about two hundred Mexican soldiers, accompanied by 1800 conscripted "volunteers" including Mexican peasants with pitchforks and Indians. They were hardly a match for the six thousand professional French soldiers encamped in Puebla.
But it seems that no one told the French troops not to drink the water, so they drank the water, all six thousand of them. As a result they were all suffering from extremely violent cases of diarrhea, in which some of them doubtlessly soiled their uniforms. They were hardly in any condition for battle as they were all in various stages of the dire effects of "Montezuma’s Revenge," having unknowingly poisoned themselves by drinking the bacteria-laden water they discovered. This is what the rag-tag detatchment of the Mexican army found when they began the attack on the French in Puebla.
It could be speculated that even without the attack, some of the French soldiers would have expired, so violent and foul was their diarrhea. But the Mexican force capitalized on the situation and massacred the entire French detatchment. This is the root of Cinco de Mayo.
Let me reiterate. Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of diarrhea. Any other interpretation could easily be construed as racist, as I intend to construe it as such. This will not dissuade me from my enchiladas or any other hispanic thing. however I fail to see how I would celebrate the holiday, knowing its history, as must some of the presumed celebrants.
This is why last year when I told the story about the mayonnaise, I said you might like it better than the real story.