PORTLAND, Maine — Not everyone celebrating Cinco de Mayo a day early at El Rayo Taqueria in Portland on Sunday knew what the Mexican holiday was all about, but most had a good time eating, drinking and dancing to the vibrant sounds of the Maine Marimba Ensemble without the particulars.
“I’m not too sure what Cinco de Mayo is all about,” said Abby Donnelly of Cape Elizabeth as she sported a sombrero and sunglasses.
Her friend and dancing partner, Josie Barth, had her own take on the mysterious celebration.
“I think here, Cinco de Mayo, at least at El Rayo, is about music and getting people all together and having a good time,” she said.
Nearby, a group of children frolliced to the Zimbabwe-style marimba music coming from the stage under a tent. They confidently knew the Spanish translation was “fifth of May,” but beyond that, they were unclear.
For the record, Cinco de Mayo marks the badly outnumbered Mexican army’s victory over the invading French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The French went on to conquer Mexico, but their rule only lasted a few years and the unlikely win remains a source of pride south of the border. It is not, as many think, Mexican independence day. That falls in September.
Details aside, Cinco de Mayo has become the Mexican version of St. Patrick’s Day in many places. It’s a day to celebrate Mexican culture, but also to have a few drinks, dance and eat some tasty ethnic food.
Chris Dumont summed it up while standing behind a grill, dishing out veggie kabobs, chips, salsa, guacamole and chicken.
“It’s about fun, partying and good Mexican food,” he said.