Celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Chi-town style

    It’s a popular (and false) belief that Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican Independence Day. Actually, Cinco de Mayo (May 5th, 1862) celebrates the victory of underequipped Mexican troops over the larger French army under the direction of General Ignacio Zaragoza.

    This Mexican retelling of David and Goliath is much more celebrated in the United States than in Mexico, where the celebrations are pretty much limited to the state of Puebla, where the battle took place. Cultural exaggeration or not, you should get a look on what’s happening in Chicago for Cinco de Mayo’s festivities.

    If you’re looking for colourful parades, earlier celebrations of Cinco de Mayo happened in Douglas Park over the weekend and in the Pilsen neighborhood with dance sessions, carnival rides, Mexican music and food tasting. Stop brooding behind your computer screen: this weekend, the Little Village (South Kostner Avenue and 26th street, the El stop Kostner on the Pink Line) will host a three-day festival with music, food, art and kids activities.

    But Cinco de Mayo should not wait until next weekend. Here some foodie tips to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in your own way. Take a walk in Pilsen, contemplate its murals along 16th street, and visit the free National Museum of Mexican Art, which features two exhibitions on US artists’ interpretations of Mexican muralists and the plight of women living in Juarez. After satisfying your intellectual and artistic appetite, it’s time for some Mexican eateries: the area is full of competition.

    Speaking of competition, for its second year in Pilsen, the Mole de Mayo festival will take place next Saturday. Mole refers to a variety of Mexican sauces. Besides the Best Mole Award contest and food sampling which will be distributed, music entertainment and outdoor Mexican markets will continue the weeklong celebration of Cinco de Mayo.

    To celebrate Cinco de Mayo on Wednesday, these are my favorite restaurants in Pilsen: Nuevo Leon,the mecca of Mexican food for Pilsen residents, Cuernavaca, Tacos Palas where the owner and cook, an old lady, will prepare your food in front of you, and Taqueria La Justicia, a taco joint with a punk-rock touch.

    If you’re looking for a closer eatery, Old Town and River North (accessible with the Intercampus shuttle) could be convenient locations. Favorite restaurants include Adobo Grill, which offers a special Cinco de Mayo menu, SalpĂ­con, Topolobampo and the new Rick Bayless’ quick-service restaurant, XOCO.

    If you’re too busy to leave Evanston and Northwestern campus, a Cinco de Mayo event called “Beyond Ponchos and Tequila: The Real Cinco de Mayo” will take place in Norris (Wildcat Room) from 6 to 7:30 p.m offering free food and dance performances.


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