I don’t go all out for Cinco de Mayo. In fact, I tend to enjoy sitting back and chuckling at uninformed people who have no idea what the day even means.
If May 5, otherwise known as Cinco de Mayo (literally translated as “five of May”) is the day you celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day, you have it all wrong.
I can understand the confusion: Cinco de Mayo sounds a lot like the Fourth of July, which is America’s day to celebrate its independence.
But Mexico’s big Independence Day is actually September 16, but somehow, Dieciséis de Septiembre doesn’t have the same ring to it that Cinco de Mayo does.
For the record, the May 5 holiday celebrates the anniversary of the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. As History.com puts it, “While it is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the United States, Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a commemoration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations.”
Far be it from me to argue with History.com, but I’ve found it far less of a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage and far more of an excuse to get drunk at Mexican restaurants or with the aid of Mexican-themed alcoholic drinks.
Some have suggested, interestingly enough, that when Mexico repelled the French army, they may have had an indirect impact on the U.S. Civil War which was also underway at the time. The speculation is that the French army, had it been successful, may well have moved into the U.S. southern coast and aided the Confederate army against Union soldiers. Some believe this could have benefitted the Southern cause, though there’s no way to know whether it could have helped the Confederacy win the war.
Clearly those in the South who love their Confederate flags and love celebrating “Mexico’s independence” every May 5th are blissfully unaware of the irony.
My favorite Mexican dish
In any case, whenever I visit an authentic Mexican restaurant, there’s one dish I can never seem to resist ordering: Arroz con Pollo. It’s American name is Chicken with Rice, although it would be literally translated as “rice with chicken.”
There’s a Mexican restaurant near my workplace that one of my closest work friends and I escape to once a week for lunch. I’ve been visiting that restaurant now for almost as long as I’ve lived in Charleston, and almost every time I go, I order Arroz con Pollo.
Their version is chopped up chicken in a cream sauce with Spanish rice and cheese and a side of refried beans.
I’ve checked several recipes online for Arroz con Pollo and found that most suggest using chicken thighs and tomato paste. When it comes to chicken, I’m more of a breast man. And the tomato part threw me: I’ve not seen any indication that my favorite version of the dish contains tomato at all. So that makes me a bit hesitant to try making my own.
This particular recipe looks like the rice portion of the meal I get. Imagine, instead of the whole thighs, pieces of chicken chopped and mixed into the rice, and you’ll get a sense of what my dinner plate looks like.
I may have to give this recipe a try, although it’s hard to resist the temptation to drop by the restaurant for a helping of Arroz con Pollo I already know I’ll really enjoy!
Whether you celebrate Cinco de Mayo or not, I hope you have the opportunity to try Arroz con Pollo.