For the well-read individual, the historian, and, perhaps, for some champions of authenticity, Cinco de Mayo isn’t an exciting holiday. In the way of the commercial world, the 5th of May, like a few other notable holidays, may have more of its roots in sales routes than in anything else. But for us at Tomato Head, this particular Cinco de Mayo is an unusually special day, and, if you remember our second restaurant on Market Square in the 90’s, the beloved if short lived Lula, you, too, may think this Cinco de Mayo is pretty cool.
It’s not uncommon for food and beverage writers to lament that Cinco de Mayo is a trumped up little holiday without much correspondence to the reality of Mexico’s own holiday calendar. It is not the Mexican Independence Day, which is actually on September 16th, nor is it a huge party day across the Mexican nation. The common complaint is that May 5th was the creation of beer marketers and, later, further popularized by the caramel colored clown that is our nation’s best-selling tequila.
That’s not entirely true.
It’s certainly a holiday that generates its fair share of American hangovers, but it does commemorate an unlikely Mexican victory over invading French troops in 1862. The battle is still celebrated in Puebla, the state where it happened, and the locals keep the day in festive array with reenactments, parades, and other celebratory happenings.
But what makes Cinco de Mayo particularly fascinating is the way that it has impacted the United States – and not by booze alone.
The victory at Puebla, though not a major battle in the way that strategists think of such things, was a major symbol in the Mexican resistance to Napoleon III’s attempts to reclaim a debt and establish a colonial power. It helped energize the resistance, which not only kept France from solidifying power but prevented them from fiddling in the American Civil War. If France had been able to overrun Mexico, there’s a pretty good chance they would have aided the Confederacy in order to end the Union’s pesky blockade of Southern ports.
That might have been a major game changer in the course of human events.
More recently, and perhaps the reason that beer marketers found the holiday, Cinco de Mayo was an important rally day for the Chicano Movement in the 1960’s. The movement embraced the day as a way to celebrate Mexican tradition, history, and identity in the United States during their struggle for equal rights.
There’s a lot more to the history of the day than we have room to discuss – and that’s certainly true of the Chicano Movement and its impact on Civil Rights. But suffice to say that we’re proud to celebrate.
And, to show our joy, and to celebrate a little of our own history (not to mention showing off our shiny new liquor license), we’ll be adding tequila to our small but growing collection of spirits. It will be a 100% blue agave tequila which we’ll mix with house made limeade for a margarita that will almost reincarnate the very popular drinks that we served at Lula back in the day.
If you don’t recall, Lula, our second restaurant on Market Square, featured a contemporary take on Mexican and southwestern cuisine from mole to margaritas. Sadly, Lula was ahead of its time (and ahead of the crowds on the Square), and we closed the restaurant in 2000 to concentrate on making Tomato Head the best it could be.
Still, we, and many of our friends, have always kept fond memories of Lula in our heart. Now we’ll keep some at the bar.
Happy Cinco de Mayo! And regardless of what you celebrate, we hope you’ll share part of the day with us!