Today is Cinco de Mayo. It is sometimes mistakenly thought of as a major Mexican holiday; it is, rather, a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride by people of Mexican descent living mostly in the United States – and, of course, non-Mexicans looking for an excuse to drink tequila.
In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated primarily in the state of Puebla where it is called El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (The Day of the Battle of Puebla) observed to commemorate the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. France, under the leadership of Napoleon Number Three, sought to establish a Gallic empire in Mexico (possibly because things had gone so well for Napoleon Number One in Russia back in 1812). In 1861, a large French force landed at Veracruz sending the Mexican government into retreat. Moving toward Mexico City, the French army encountered heavy resistance near Puebla from a poorly equipped Mexican army of 4,500 men. The Mexicans were able to soundly defeat the 8,000-strong French army, considered the best in the world.
Although there’s not much happening in Mexico City on May 5, there’s plenty of action elsewhere as celebrations everywhere honor Mexican cuisine, culture and music. In addition to the many U.S. events, Windsor, Ontario, holds a Cinco de Mayo Street Festival, and a club near Vancouver, British Columbia, holds a Cinco de Mayo skydiving event. In the Caribbean, there is an annual Cinco de Mayo air guitar competition in the Cayman Islands and a celebration at Montego Bay, Jamaica. Cinco de Mayo events are held in Australia, New Zealand, London and and even in Paris (where it’s sometimes called, Cinco de Mayo, Merde).
Everybody Loves Saturday Night, Part 2: Let the Battle Begin
Naughty Nora’s remained silent, except for the calypso tune on the jukebox which persevered, unaware of the current situation, surreally inappropriate. Under the table, Estelle crouched on hands and knees, waiting for the next blast, the one that would end it for them here and now. She heard a little scuffling, and a fair-haired man appeared under her table, also on hands and knees. He grinned and said: “We can’t go on meeting like this.”
“What happened?” asked Estelle, her voice quivering.
“Damned if I know,” said the man, who spoke with an English accent. “My name is Sidney Smith, by the way.”
“Estelle,” answered Estelle. Sidney Smith didn’t answer; he was staring at her breasts. The lights went out. Estelle screamed.
From behind the bar, the efficient Nora quickly produced several candles and distributed them among the tables. The tourists at Naughty Nora’s may have found a direct – and probably dire – link between the blast and the loss of electricity, but the locals knew that the electricity on the island was a fickle thing that would frequently take some time off. Saturday night was particularly prone to electrical problems since it was the one night of the week that everyone seemed to do things using electricity.
Everyone remained hushed in the flickering light of Naughty Nora’s, speaking only in whispers. It was silent outside as well, but as they listened they heard a low rumble in the distance that grew closer but remained low and steady. A few of the braver patrons crowded around the windows and looked out into the moonlit night.
The heavy tank of German manufacture, which was the centerpiece of the island’s defense forces, rumbled down Christopher Columbus Boulevard, followed closely by Her Majesty’s Royal Militia. Although the island had long since severed its relationship with Britain, the militia remained her majesty’s, and it proudly comprised the 37 islanders who owned guns. Accompanying them were another dozen paramilitary hangers-on wielding sticks. The great armored beast, its turret turning this way and that, had seen service in North Africa and was, therefore, the only member of the militia that had any combat experience. Nevertheless, to the tourists cowering inside Naughty Nora’s, this was no Veteran’s Day parade in Peoria. This militia confirmed their worst fears.
To the locals, now well under the influence of Nora’s rum, the militia stirred their latent patriotic souls.
“We’ve been invaded,” shouted Maurice, the bricklayer, breaking the silence that had held sway since the explosion. “The Americans are attacking.”
“We should join our brave countrymen and help to repel the North American hordes,” said Billy, the son of the mayor.
“We’ll fight the Americans to the death,” shouted Maurice, raising a fist in the air. Estelle, feeling very much like the wrong nationality in the wrong place at the wrong time, slipped behind Sidney Smith.
“What if it isn’t the Americans?” said Everette, the taxi driver and voice of reason. “How do we know?”
“Whoever it is, we will fight them to the death,” said Maurice, finishing off a glass of rum for emphasis.
“Yes,” said Billy. “The Americans or whoever.”
“But why would we want to fight to the death?” asked Everette, the voice of caution.
“For our honor,” shouted Nora, from behind the bar.
“But isn’t it better to be alive than to be honorable?” said Everette, the voice of cowardice.
“That’s the attitude that keeps the islands under colonialist thumbs,” said Billy. “What little we have is our honor, and you would strip us of that.”
“But if the Americans kill every one of us, what good is our honor?” said Everette, the only voice of hope as far as Estelle was concerned. “Who will even know of our great honor? Will the Americans tell the world how honorable we were? I think not.”
That was an argument that Maurice had to turn over in his clouded head, but in the meantime, he insisted, the tourists, particularly the Americans, were all prisoners of war. “We can’t let them aid the invaders,” he explained.
“Isn’t it exciting,” bubbled Penelope. “I’ve never been a prisoner of war.”
Everybody Loves Saturday Night is one of the 15 stories from Calypso, Stories of the Caribbean, available as an ebook or in a print edition with real pages and everything.