When I was growing up my parents celebrated Cinco De Mayo as the biggest holiday of the year. Not just the solemn part–when every clear thinking man observes a moment of silence to thank God profusely for preventing the French from taking over Mexico and turning it into Montreal with short brown people and ten times the flies. Or Algeria with booze and bean farts. No, the day was far bigger than that!
First off, it was my birthday and since my parents faithfully read the LA Times along with their morning gin fizzes they were convinced it was likely my last big party day on earth. Most likely I would catch polio and die in an iron lung during the first power outage, or just as likely be turned into a glowing ember along with everyone else when the Russian missiles hit. Therefore, Cinco De Mayo was meant to be all the holidays wrapped into one.
As I recall, my parents would wake me and my brothers up early and we’d hunt for chocolate eggs left by a huge rabbit in a sombrero ; then we’d go out singing Christmas carols for the neighbors, eat a big turkey for lunch, down a few jars of rum and pancake batter—“Aunt Jemima’s Nig Nog Happy Juice” — and since there were no football games on TV watch an Army training film on how to avoid getting gonorrhea . Finally, in the early evening, my parents put sheets over our heads and sent us out to beg for candy.
It was clean, wholesome, affordable fun. Unfortunately, neighbors objected to our second visit of the day –which tended to be even more boisterous than our earlier caroling of Good King Wenceslaus and Feliz Navidad, especially if we’d taken too many Nig Nogs on board and rolled their lawns with toilet paper. What ensued was predictable. A petition was circulated, our parents were reported to the cops who in turn brought in the social workers who eventually confined my parents to what we called The Funny Adobe. Pointedly, we did NOT call it the Asylum Lunatique or The Crazy Chalet, which they looked upon as a victory, of sorts
But it wasn’t just fun, it was also a valuable history lesson. How many kids today know that they could easily be living in a world where instead of Tacos and Nacho Fries they’d be trying to gag down snails fried in garlic at the Escargot Bell? Or can they imagine trying to explain to the people who do the lawn that knife fighting or drunken bouts of grab ass will not be tolerated –in French! And if even these examples don’t register, force them to watch the everyday scenes from the Rio Grande and ask them to imagine how much more appalling it would be if the wetbacks wore flamboyant outfits and extravagant hairstyles and complained incessantly about the service? I’m pretty sure they’ll finally have to agree this country dodged El Bullet Grande on Cinco de Mayo