The Top 5 Places to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

The Irish have their St. Patrick’s Day. The Germans lift a beer stein to Oktoberfest. And Mexicans own May 5, when they celebrate Cinco de Mayo – the day, in 1862, a well-prepared French military force was defeated in a battle, in Puebla, by an under-equipped Mexican army half its size.

Cinco de Mayo celebrations have become huge street fiestas (more so in the United States than anywhere else) with mariachi music, women in colorful costumes clicking castanets in traditional dances, sombrero-clad men playing guitars, street vendors serving up tamales, empanadas and all manner of good food – and everything enlivened by the free flow of tequila, mescal and beer served with lime in its neck.

To start planning for next year, here’s a list of the top 5 places to celebrate Cinco de Mayo:

1.    Los Angeles: This is where the world’s largest Cinco de Mayo celebration takes place – a raucous affair that goes for a full weekend downtown. Hundreds of thousands enjoy parades, food, dancing, music and more. Not only is there a mile-long street party, many individual L.A. neighborhoods have their own celebrations with special twists. Anyone for masked wrestlers and striptease artists at the Mayan Theatre?

2.    San Antonio: Since Texas has a sizable Mexican-American population, it should come as no surprise that San Antonio serves up an authentic Cinco de Mayo fiesta, compete with the salt around the rims of perfect margaritas. Market Square is party central, with three days of  concerts, folklorico dancing, savory fajita meat and hand-patted gordita tortillas simmered on outdoor grills, and mariachi bands playing outside beer tents.

3.    New York: The highlight of the Big Apple’s celebration is a parade at Central Park West, with its colorful floats and bevies of dancers. Those in the know will also head over to the Hudson Hotel’s Tequila Park, which serves more than 40 kinds of tequilas and mescals, and margaritas ranging from classic to bubblegum bacon.

4.    Phoenix: Apparently the city goes loco for the 5 de Mayo celebration near the Camelback Vista Villa. The two-day block party includes live entertainment, arts and crafts demonstrations, food vendors and much more. But the knowledgeable traveler will also go to the nearby city of Chandler with  its chihuahua races and beauty pageant. (Why these two things go together, we don’t know. They just do.)

5.    Puebla: Come on! This Mexican state has to make the list. It’s where the actual battle took place.  While Cinco de Mayo it is not a national holiday in Mexico, it is an official holiday in Puebla. The month-long celebration draws more than one million visitors to enjoy a parade with floats and thousands of participants; a state fair with bullfights and wholesome family entertainment;  concerts by regional, national and international  musical talents; and much more.

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