Today is Cinco de Mayo and there are all kinds of ways to celebrate. The most notable is to drink way too much tequila, but the day can be much more than that. Thank you to Richard Guzman of the Downtown News for putting together such an amazing list of things to do today to celebrate and also giving us a little history lesson for those of us they may not understand what Cinco de Mayo is really all about.
Many people think the holiday is Mexico’s Independence Day. It’s not. Rather, it commemorates the unlikely Mexican victory against the French army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. In that fight, 4,000 Mexican soldiers defeated a better-armed, 8,000-strong French army.
If you didn’t know the reason behind the holiday, there are several ways to learn a little more about the culture in Downtown Los Angeles. Below is a list of things to do and places to visit on and around Thursday, May 5. There are plenty of opportunities to get a cultural education and eat some good food. Of course, the area also has a few places to grab a shot of tequila.
Cultured Party: One of the best places to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Southern California is the place where Los Angeles was born. El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument is producing two Cinco de Mayo events this year. On May 5, from noon-8 p.m., the plaza at the top of Olvera Street, just off Main Street, will host a party with live music from Mexican regional bands and traditional folklorico dancers. Then on Sunday, May 8, from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. you’ll get to experience the Battle of Puebla without any of the dangers of an actual war, with re-enactments taking place in the monument’s South Plaza. There will also be mariachi music, folklorico dancers, food booths and artisans on hand for the free celebration. While there, be sure to stroll down Olvera Street, which houses more than 70 merchants who sell Mexican-themed souvenirs. There are also museums at the site, among them the Sepulveda House, built in 1887, and the Avila Adobe, the city’s oldest building, erected in 1818.
At 125 Paseo del la Plaza, (213) 485-8372 or elpueblo.lacity.org.
Party for the People: It’s being billed as the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the world: Hundreds of thousands of people (yes, hundreds of thousands) are expected to pack a 12-block area on and around Broadway from Fifth to Temple streets for Fiesta Broadway on Sunday, May 8. The gathering has been going on for 22 years, and while it regularly rankles areas businesses and residents (forget about driving anywhere near the event that day), there are plenty of cultural opportunities: This year’s line-up features L.A. favorites Ozomatli, the lauded and original Mexican Institute of Sound and traditional regional artists Diana Reyes and Carmen Jara. The 11 a.m.-6 p.m. event is free and includes traditional dancers, food and vendor booths. The street is usually packed shoulder to shoulder with people, so get there early.
On Broadway between Temple and Fifth streets, fiestabroadway.la.
Cinco Is a-Live: Since it opened a few years ago, L.A. Live has gotten into the holiday spirit, with a gigantic metal Christmas tree and a large St. Patrick’s Day concert and celebration. Now, the South Park space programmed by Anschutz Entertainment Group gets in on the Cinco de Mayo action, with a free May 5 fiesta that is open to the public. The festivities start on Nokia Plaza at 5:30 p.m. and feature salsa dancers, live music, a beer and margarita garden and, best of all, a battle of the mariachi bands. Later in the evening, the action moves to the Conga Room, where Maria Daniela performs.
At 800 W. Olympic Blvd., lalive.com.
Center for Cinco: The city’s newest cultural center is all about the contributions Mexicans and Mexican Americans have made to Los Angeles. So it makes sense to spend at least part of Cinco de Mayo by learning a little bit more about the culture at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes. Inside the 2.2-acre facility you’ll see exhibits about the founding of the city, as well as displays on more contemporary subjects. A highlight of the $27 million attraction is a re-creation of Main Street in the 1920s, complete with some serious old-school shops. Of course, the facility adjacent to El Pueblo offers information about the contributions of Mexican Americans such as Cesar Chavez, Lalo Guerrero and Anthony Quinn.
At 501 N. Main St., (888) 488-8033 or lapca.org.
Find the Pearl: Why not take an extended lunch hour on Thursday and have a few drinks at Las Perlas. The tequila and mescal bar in the Historic Core is not just offering fine liquor for Cinco de Mayo, it is also throwing in some cold brews, mixed drinks and Southern Mexican cuisine. The Sixth Street spot is offering drink specials from noon-8 p.m. on May 5. They include $3 Tecates, $5 Herradura shots and $5 margaritas. They will also offer Oaxacan food, a region in Southern Mexico known for excellent cuisine. DJs will be spinning tunes all day.
At 107 E. Sixth St., (213) 988-8355 or lasperlas.la.
Mas Bueno: Located in a cavernous 1920s space that once housed a jewelry store, Mas Malo, Downtown’s newest Mexican restaurant, opened in January with an emphasis on East L.A. food. Since Cinco de Mayo is a bigger holiday here than it is in Mexico, this is a fitting spot in which to mark the occasion. Try the Ensenada bacon-wrapped shrimp or the hard shell ground beef and pickle taco for a unique twist on Mexican food. Of course, if you want to celebrate properly, you’ll sample the vast drink menu that includes tequila, mescal and house mixes like the Rooster, with Gusano Mezcal, bourbon and lime juice, and the Backyard Wedding, with Corralejo Blanco, Kahlua and horchata. Then again, you won’t go wrong with a simple house margarita.
At 515 W. Seventh St., (213) 985-4332 or masmalorestaurant.com.
Cinco de Mayan: In this corner, the most authentic Mexican wrestling in town! In the other corner, Ciiiiiiiiiiinco de Mayooooooooooo! Watch what happens when Lucha VaVoom, the Mexican masked wrestling/burlesque/comedy extravaganza takes on the party-friendly holiday at this year’s celebration, appropriately dubbed Cinco de Mayan. The action overwhelms the gorgeous Mayan Theatre on, you guessed it, May 5. Wrestlers will tear each other up in dramatic acrobatic battles, and there will be roaming mariachis, Aztec dancers, tamale and tequila specials. Best of all, the $45 event features a donkey photo booth where you can get your picture with a donkey. Everyone loves donkeys!
At 1038 S. Hill St. or luchavavoom.com.
Margarita Party: You can get a little taste of Mexico with a few margaritas at El Cholo for Cinco de Mayo. The South Park restaurant is the latest in the small family-owned chain to open; it arrived Downtown last June in the old Liberty Grill spot. Yeah, the place can be a bit gimmicky, with the waitresses in colorful Mexican outfits and the waiters clad in traditional guayaberas, but the margaritas are nothing to laugh at. If you want to make it a high-end celebration try the 24 karat margarita. There’s no actual gold in it, but it does have upscale ingredients and is priced like gold, at $24 a glass. Or go a more traditional route and celebrate with the Julio’s Cosmopolitan for $9.95.
At 1037 S. Flower St., (213) 746-7750 or elcholo.com.
Villains Party: Outlaws always have more fun, and on Cinco de Mayo, Downtown’s best known villains will get into an even more celebratory mood. Villains Tavern in the Arts District will offer some tequila-based cocktail specials for the occasion. Look for adult beverages such as the Tijuana Trick, La Barbie and Iñigo Montoya. Cans of Tecate go for $2 on May 5.
At 1356 Palmetto St., (213) 613-0766 or villainstavern.com
In addition to all the celebrations listed above, many local bars and restaurants have specials for today or just a celebratory vibe... don't be afraid to check out your favorite local hang out.