May 6, 2011

Cinco de Mayo: Yesterday's Celebrations in Peñón de los Baños

As we mentioned yesterday, Cinco de Mayo isn't the big fiesta in Mexico that it is in the USA. Nevertheless, there are areas where commemorative events occur and, when they do, they have it large. One of these is Peñón de los Baños.

Cinco de Mayo in Mexico City

Peñón de los Baños is just a suburb of Mexico City, but Cinco de Mayo is one of their biggest events of the year. The streets are thronged with people, almost all in costumes. Children as young as two are in replica Mexican or French army outfits. Charros bring their horses, parading in the colors of either side. There is no obvious favoring the home team here. It's recognized that the French were an important presense on the day.

Cinco de Mayo in Mexico City

The reenactment, of the 1862 Battle of Puebla, is an annual event. Head down to the area, next May 5th, and you will be able to witness it in all its glory. The local residents spend all year preparing for it. Costumes are stitched; roles assigned and rehearsed; planning permission gained to close off the streets.

On the day, the parades are large and enthusiastic, with a lot of crowd participation. It is a real family day, with people arriving early to gain a good vantage spot. The parade pauses often for another mini reenactment. The French carry baguettes on their backs. The Mexicans carry baskets with chicken legs and green onions. At the end, all the crowd scream, "¡Viva México!"

Cinco de Mayo in Mexico City

Though more military in aspect than the all-drinking, all-feasting festivals in the USA, the parades do include local culture too. Women in billowing skirts dance their way along the streets; while charros ride their horses and the marachi bands play.

The day ends with a proper, full-blown battle re-enactment. This takes place in the hills overlooking the neighborhood. It's colorful and dramatic; it's also a lot of fun. This portion especially draws the largest crowds. It's the part that those assigned roles, like the respective generals, have spent months mastering, just so that it runs flawlessly on Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo in Mexico City

While most of Mexico will have treated Cinco de Mayo as just another day. It is a huge event in Peñón de los Baños as a result of some community spirit.

A generation ago, there was a divide in the neighborhood which perturbed some residents. They scrabbled around for something that would unify the locals; and, more importantly, take their minds off petty feuds.

Cinco de Mayo was chosen and it worked! No-one now can even recall what it was their elders were arguing about. But the fiesta goes on. ¡Viva México! ¡Viva Cinco de Mayo!

(The video is in Spanish, but it does give a good overview of the day.)

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