The Grincha Who Stole Cinco de Mayo

A seahorse mosaic in our courtyard.

There are so many things I love about our Miami Beach apartment–the mermaid mosaic on the stairwell wall, the starfish tiles in the palm-tree-filled courtyard, the flamingoes on the wrought iron gate, and the perfect location, a block away from pedestrian Lincoln Road, and three blocks from the beach. When my not-yet-fiancé and I visited Miami knowing that his company was going to relocate to the area, we passed by the 1934 Spanish revival building and decided it was just the kind of place we’d like to live in if we ended up moving. Our real estate agent told us that most people our age wanted to live in Brickell, a neighborhood bordered by the Intercoastal that is full off shiny glass high rises. But we figured if we were going to move from New York, it shouldn’t be to another high rise (my husband lived on the fifth floor in NYC, I lived on the 19th), but in a place that screamed Florida. We wanted flamingoes in the architecture and heart to hearts out on the lanai–we wanted to be like the Golden Girls, only a married couple.

Papel Picado

But there is one thing about our apartment that turns into a real liability biannually, and that’s its proximity to a Mexican restaurant which closes down half the street for block parties twice a year–on Mexican independence day, September 16th, and today, on Cinco de Mayo. I hate to be the Grinch (or the gringa, or even the Grincha) who stole Cinco de Mayo. I love Mexico. I heartily enjoy most Mexican restaurants. I delight in the papel picada flags that line the street during these block parties. I’m neutral on the Corona stands. I adore the little kids in mariachi garb. But I hate, hate, hate the massive speakers on my front doorstep with a passion Zorro reserved for bad guys. They pound techno into the street for hours on end, and they make the windows in our little apartment shake.

Happy Lady, Scary Speakers

Happy Lady, Scary Speakers

I might feel better if I could have a margarita, but I hear babies don’t like them. Also, I know tequila makes some people mean, and this baby is freakishly strong, kicking me awake at night. I don’t want to make her mad. (I’m already scared of my daughter and she’s still a fetus! Now I really need a margarita.) I actually thought the nice Starbucks lady was mocking me when I walked the gauntlet of revelers to get to the corner and buy my iced green tea and a banana and she said, “Enjoy.” What was I supposed to reply? “Looks like a great banana!” “Nothing like a frosty unsweetened iced green tea at the end of a long day!” Or, considering the occasion, perhaps a simple “Gracias!”

To combat the vibrations of our home–like a long, sustained earthquake of minor scale–and the blaring club soundtrack, we considered checking into a hotel nearby. But then I decided it would be more educational (and cheaper) to learn about Cinco de Maya instead. After all, it’s a holiday, a celebration, complete with rituals (let us not forget the aforementioned margaritas). All things I dig. And apparently, the holiday commemorates a major liminal stage in Mexican history: the victory of the underdog Mexican army over the powerful French army at the Battle of Puebla on the eponymous date in 1862. The history is all pretty complicated, especially when techno music is shaking the very couch you sit on, but apparently the French decided to occupy Mexico and create what they called a second Mexican empire. At the battle in question, the French forces were twice as large as the Mexican, but they were defeated nonetheless, almost miraculously.

The Battle of Puebla

It’s an interesting story and definitely cause for celebration, but the very first block parties that broke out after the original Cinco de Mayo didn’t last long; France defeated Mexico a year after the Battle of Puebla and put Emperor Maximilian II in power. In 1867, with the help of the US Army, he was defeated and executed and the French were finally out.

As were my husband and I, at least for a few hours; learning about the Battle of Puebla was educational and inspiring, but the party was just too loud. So we fled our neighborhood, and our throbbing windows, and headed to a restaurant further down the beach. Dinner was delightful, if not Mexican. But I still felt guilty. Until I researched Cinco de Mayo further and learned that in Mexico, the holiday is mainly celebrated in the state of Puebla itself. That made me feel so much better, I now love the country even more. If much of Mexico can opt out of partying like it’s 1862, so can I. At least until I can drink a margarita.

In the meantime, that brings me to a business idea. Bethenny Frankel, one of the Real Housewives of NYC, has her line of Skinny Girl margaritas, which I’ve never tried but love for the name alone. Someone should make a line of Hot Mama margaritas–and eggnog, and green beer, and sparkling “wine” and other non-alcoholic versions of the boozy beverages we use to mark major holidays, so that we mamas-to-be can join in the fun. It might make the techno go down a lot easier.



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