Gay Nagle Myers is sampling the Riviera Maya’s offerings, from spa rituals at the Grand Velas resort to Mayan ruins at Tulum. The spring breakers have come and gone, the wedding season has not yet hit its peak and the temperatures still hover at comfortable. Her second dispatch follows. Click to read Gay’s first dispatch.
If I had expected Cinco de Mayo to be a big deal in the Riviera Maya, I would have been very wrong.
Had I been in the colonial city of Puebla in Mexico’s center near Mexico City, I would have been part of a grand party with parades, piñatas and palomas (fizzy tequila cocktails).
The only celebrations I witnessed on Cinco de Mayo were a beautiful sunset marriage ceremony at Grand Velas and a boisterous wedding parade along La Quinta, the Fifth Avenue of Playa del Carmen, in early afternoon. The parade had a trumpet band, mariachi singers, the bride and groom, several dogs and half the town.
Here is where my confusion arose.
Most American confuse Cinco de Maya with Mexican Independence Day, which is the country’s most important national patriotic holiday, celebrated on Sept. 15 and 16 to mark the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence in 1810. Now that’s a nationwide party. Mexico shuts down for two days and the fun begins.
What Cinco de Mayo commemorates is the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The victory marked a turning point in the fight against the French invaders.
Because it is a glorious day in Puebla’s history, Cinco de Mayo calls for a grand celebration, but Puebla is the only place in Mexico where it is a national holiday.
Over the years, Cinco de Mayo celebrations have cropped up in the U.S., from the west and southwest all the way to the east coast in cities with big Mexican and Mexican-American populations.
But here, Cinco de Mayo was just another sun-filled day in paradise.
Alejandro, my private butler at Grand Velas, told me when delivering fresh fruit and chilled wine, “Every day here is a celebration and a holiday for our guests.” Si, señor
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