Residents celebrate Cinco de Mayo

By Ed Brock

The El Mariachi Mexican Restaurant and Bar will live up to its name on Monday as the owners and patrons celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

"This is a fairly new restaurant so it will probably help their business," said Angelica Hernandez, a friend of El Mariachi owner Guadelope Campos.

With mariachi music and drink specials all day today, the events at El Mariachi on Jonesboro Road will not be the only Clayton County celebrations of what has become a very Americanized Mexican holiday.

But many Americans who celebrate the event at bars and Mexican restaurants may not know the true meaning of the event.

"It's not Mexican Independence Day like a lot of people think," said Orlando Villanueva with the Latin American Association offices in Forest Park.

The fiesta is actually held to commemorate the "Batalla de Puebla," a battle that took place on May 5, 1862 in which the Mexican army defeated an invading French force at the small town of Puebla.

The real Mexican Independence Day is Sept. 16 and some say even Mexican Constitution Day on Feb. 5 is celebrated more enthusiastically in Mexico than Cinco de Mayo. The American celebration of the day is growing in popularity, Villanueva said, and while it is quite commercialized he is glad to see that growing recognition of the day.

"I think it's always good to acknowledge the diversity in the area," Villanueva said.

Representatives from the Latin American Association were planning to attend Saturday's Kaleidoscope Festival put on by the Clayton County Library System that was dubbed "A multicultural celebration of literature and arts." Tara Elementary School's Mexican Dancers were scheduled to perform traditional Mexican dances like the "Jarocho Dance" of Veracruz and two of the children's mothers were to perform the "Huapango."

While the dances were intended as a celebration of Cinco de Mayo, Amparo Diaz-Gardiner, the school's family literacy coordinator and spokeswoman for the Mexican Dancers, said that the Mexican people she works with (Diaz-Gardiner is from South America) say the holiday is not very big back home.

"The new immigrants are kind of surprised and ask why we celebrate Cinco de Mayo," Diaz-Gardiner said.

Hernandez, a native of Texas whose husband was born in Mexico, said she was surprised the day was celebrated here in Georgia but said Mexican Cinco de Mayo is actually pretty big.

"It's probably when you have the most fun," said Hernandez. "They celebrate with a lot of pi?atas, a lot of food and a lot of drinks."