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Cinco de Mayo's history neglected; it's an excuse to party

There are holidays that are more about the party than the history. Call them drinking holidays.

We take a real holiday and strip its significance to a two-for-one drink special.

St. Patrick's Day is one. Oktoberfest is another. Fourth of July is teetering.

There's history there, but few fun-lovers pause long enough to see it.

"Holidays like that are a reason to celebrate," says Mary Bradford of Albuquerque. "It's a camaraderie thing. It's different from just going out on a Friday night. It's an opportunity to experience a kinship with people."

Cinco de Mayo, another of those holidays, is Saturday.

It's not Mexican Independence Day, as many people think. Mexico declared its independence from Spain on Sept. 16, 1810.

But Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday, a minor one - celebrated more exuberantly in the United States than south of the border.

Nobody knows exactly why.

Here's one theory: "From my perspective as a marketing professional, Cinco de Mayo has morphed into a national holiday designed by Fifth Avenue to sell alcohol and excite consumership around a party-type theme," says Jeffrey Candelaria, vice president of membership and marketing at the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce.

Here's a quick history.

The French, under Emperor Napoleon III, landed in Mexico in early December 1862, bent on overthrowing the government of President Benito Juarez. They even brought along a Hapsburg prince, Maximilian, and his wife, Carolota, to rule the new Mexican empire.

Napoleon's army, which hadn't been defeated in 50 years, marched on Mexico City. On the morning of May 5, 4,000 Mexican troops under the command of General Ignacio Zaragosa - many wielding only machetes - defeated the 8,000 well-armed invaders at Puebla, 100 miles east of Mexico City.

The bloody Battle of Puebla is seen as a cultural link between Mexico and the United States, which was affected because the supply of French weapons to the Confederate Army during the U.S. Civil War was cut off. The war ended at Gettysburg 14 months later.

OK, enough history. On to the fun.

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated throughout Albuquerque, at bars and restaurants and city and cultural centers.

Here are some of the best parties Saturday:

Univision Radio and its two Spanish-language stations, KJFA-FM (105.1) and KKRG-FM (101.3), will host the Festival de Cinco de Mayo from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. at Civic Plaza.

Sales manager Jeff Joerg says the event will feature 60 food and shopping vendors and a musical lineup of local, regional and national bands. The tunes start at noon.

There will be a special children's area. "It's a time to spend with families," Joerg says.

And will the food be good?

"You know it," he says.

The acclaimed Ballet Folklórico Mexcaltitán will do two shows, at 2 and 8 p.m., at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

"We wanted to do something culturally relevant," says Danny Lopez, marketing director for the center, which partnered with Steps Dance Academy on the performances.

"Cinco de Mayo is a culturally significant event in Mexico and something we want to subtly remind and educate people about. The historical significance has been lost because it's so commercialized."

The music and dance troupe from Nayarit, Mexico, has performed worldwide. Call 883-7800 for tickets.

The Cinco de Mayo Folk Art Festival will be held from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. at 1503 Arcadian Trail N.W., east of San Isidro Drive between Candelaria and Griegos roads. There will be art, music and a chihuahua runway contest at 3:45 p.m.

The Barelas Senior Center's Fiesta de Mayo features food, music, art show, flea market, quilt display, face painting and raffle.

It runs from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. in the park behind the center at 714 Seventh St. S.W.

"We have a big tent for people to sit under, a dance floor and big stage," says Marie Sinkar, program coordinator for the senior center. "It's our big event. It's a lot of fun."

On Old Town Plaza, there will be music, dance, poetry and storytelling from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Tonight

Gonzalo is the star of Casino Hollywood's Cinco de Mayo celebration.

The singer will be joined by El Gringo, Sorela, Matt Duran and Daniel Lee Gallegos.

The show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12.

TribTalk

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Posted by franklooper on May 5, 2007 at 3:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Cinco de Mayo just makes it easier for me to remember my wedding anniversary. 17 years today!

I'm a USA mutt who married a Cuban girl on a Mexican holiday. What a great life. :-)


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