Mexico’s Cinco de Mayo may be a well known holiday in the U.S., but contrary to belief, it’s not Mexico’s Independence Day, (which is actually on September 16). Cinco de Mayo, or Fifth of May, actually commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the French forces of Napoleon III, on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla. Celebrating Cinco de Mayo in its country of origin is a grand idea for this coming spring! However, here are some key tips to keep in mind to have a monumental, and safe, time.

Safety, Quality and Smarts for a Fantastic Cinco de Mayo

1. Safe drinking. If you drink, don’t drive. If you drive while celebrating (not drunk), watch out for drunk drivers who may not have been as wise as you! Driving in Mexico is all about defensive driving and a little less about the rules. If you are in the urban areas, you may find that not everyone follows what you would call courteous driving etiquette.
2. Quality. Mezcal is the only beverage that has a maguey worm in it. Good quality tequila never has a worm floating in the bottle. The difference between the two drinks, tequila and mezcal, is the difference in the ingredient that the drink is made from. Tequila is made only from the blue agave plant. Mezcal can be made from a variety of different types of agaves, not necessarily just the blue. So technically, all tequilas are a type of mezcal but not all mezcals can be considered tequila.
3. Smarts. Cinco de Mayo is a significant historical event of Mexico and not of any other Spanish-speaking country. So it is a little curious when I see Mexican holiday celebrations in the States, such as Cinco de Mayo, and see pupusa vendors. The pupusa is a Salvadorean dish, not typically prepared nor sold in Mexico (save for the occasional Salvadorean restaurant you may encounter). Burritos are typical of the north of Mexico but in the central and southern areas, it isn’t very common. Also, a big no no: the hard shell taco DOES NOT exist in Mexico. It never has and never will. Flour tortillas are also sold and served in some places, but corn tortillas are a major staple in the Mexican diet and can be found everywhere.

If you have a good deal of flexibility, culturally speaking, you will find that Cinco de Mayo will be a lovely day outing, whether you are in the States or in Mexico. If you are planning on traveling to Mexico, check out the Quick Facts section of the Department of State for more travel tips.

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