Happy Cinco de Mayo! Back in 1862, this is the day that the Mexican army defeated the French at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (and yes, you understood correctly, this isn’t Mexico’s Independence Day – that occurs on September 16th). Surprisingly, in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is only truly celebrated in the state of Puebla, but here in the U.S., it’s a largely celebrated holiday, with many Mexican-Americans regarding it as a way to celebrate their heritage.
Every Cinco de Mayo, I feel as though I’ve left my American culture behind as I frequently encounter unheard of Mexican dishes such as elote or chiles en nogada, look down a list of margaritas and agua frescas, hear mariachi music being played, encounter pinatas and sombreros, see families and friends getting together, and overall encounter a fiesta in all the sense of the word as I go about my hometown (which is a good distance of 2,262 miles away from the state of Puebla in Mexico).
I love the discoveries that I make every year on this day, especially in regards to traditional Mexican folklore and legends. One legend in particular has always stood out to me and this legend, like Cinco de Mayo, has also infiltrated U.S. folklore, especially that of the Southwest. It is the legend of La Llorona or “The Weeping Woman.” There are many different versions of the story, but the most well-known centers around the story of a young, village girl named Maria, who fell in love with a man who wouldn’t have her because she already had children of her own. Desperate to be with him, she drowned her children in the nearby river, only to face the fact that he still wouldn’t have her, children or not. Devastated by what she had done, she drowned herself in the hopes to experience the peace of death. However, she is challenged at the gates of heaven for the whereabouts of her children and is forced to wander the earth in search of them. Legend has it that she appears late at night, haunting rivers and lakes, crying “¡Ay, mis hijos!” (“Oh, my children!”) and kidnapping wandering children who resemble her own in the hopes of finally being admitted into heaven and experiencing eternal rest.
So enjoy the festivities of Cinco de Mayo, celebrate the fusion of our cultures, but listen closely to the stories (and watch out for La Llorona).