Happy Cinco de Mayo! If you're not too busy sipping your margarita, take time to enjoy IT Contributing Writer Cathy Healy's latest story about how sometimes, even celebrations can get lost in translation.
I've heard that San Jose boasts the biggest and best Cinco de Mayo celebration in northern California, but I've yet to experience the two-hour parade and throbbing musical acts blasting from two stages. Last year, even though I was only 30 minutes away, I lived in a different universe, with 12 international fellows at Stanford.
“Hey, let’s do something for Cinco de Mayo!” I said in late April, thinking of the annual excuse for an outdoor party in my Dupont Circle neighborhood in Washington, D.C., where the sidewalk cafes are typically packed with celebrants. “Cinco de Mayo’s a sort of Mexican heritage party,” I explained. “It’s really great! You drink margarita slushes, and eat nachos with jalapeños, and listen to mariachi music…”
The fellows glanced up from their laptops.
“When is it?” asked Hernan from Colombia. HUH?!
“I’m a Brazilian. Why would I want to celebrate Mexico’s independence?” asked Fabiana.
“Will the banks be closed?" asked Netika from India. Several of the fellows had gotten messed up on the Columbus Day holiday.
“Cinco de Mayo isn’t an official holiday,” I said. “It’s just something fun that everyone does, like St. Patrick’s Day.” No response. No one knew about that 'everyone’s-Irish' excuse for drinking beer since we’d all left for spring break on March 16.
Edgardo from the Philippines interjected: “Oh, I get it—Cinco de Mayo is when the Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead.”
"C’mon!" I said. "The Day of the Dead is always the day after Halloween!” I gave up.
Thus it came to pass that on Saturday, the fifth of May, four of us drove north to tour Napa wineries instead. After a couple of sippings, Ken from the U.K., a devout beer-drinker who’d become a McFlurry junkie at Stanford, persuaded us to forget the Silverado trail and hunt down a McDonald’s. They weren't quite the frozen margaritas I'd had in mind, but they did help beat the heat.
And on Sunday, the sixth of May, Hernan discovered Cinco de Mayo in San Jose. Turns out, he was right to ask in the first place, as the festival was in full swing.
“It was really great!” he told us the next day.
Photo: Janelle Nanos