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Cinco curiosities for Cinco de Mayo

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

No, this isn't going to be one of those posts telling you that Cinco de Mayo isn't Mexican independence day, and that it's really a celebration of the Mexican army's victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. If you read this blog, you most likely know that.

It's also not going to be a rant against the rampant commerce related to the holiday as a drinking-fest in the United States, because you already know about that, too. But there are other curious facets to how Cinco de Mayo is celebrated and used, for commercial and other purposes, in the U.S. And chances are you haven't seen these compiled on one list. So let's start.

1) There is epic avocado consumption

Superbowl Sunday has long been held as the day of days for guacamole-snarfing revelry each year, but Cinco de Mayo rivals it. One estimate this year cited 81 million pounds of avocados destined for the big 5/5 mashup, to be consumed on chips and taquitos by margarita-drinking party people. (And this is no news flash, but beer, tequila and chips sales get a nice boost, too.)

2) Not everyone knows the date that Cinco de Mayo falls on

I didn't believe a colleague at first when he told me that he recently overheard someone at a gathering asking "When is Cinco de Mayo?" But indeed, such questions are asked. The name of the holiday is as calendar-explicit as, say, the Fourth of July, but perhaps it's understandable to a degree. It's in Spanish, after all, which for some remains a foreign language.

3) It's a good day for politicos to appeal to Latino voters

Case in point, from the Associated Press this week:

Speaking at a Cinco de Mayo reception in the Rose Garden, Obama blamed the failure of the Dream Act on a few Republicans in Congress. He says he will keep pushing for it, along with other fixes to what he calls the nation’s “broken” immigration system.

Cinco de Mayo celebrations at the White House have become annual features under recent presidents. This one takes on added significance in an election year as Obama courts the Latino vote for his re-election.

4) The promotions go way, way beyond the two-for-one drink special

Cinco de Mayo is used to promote things that have absolutely nothing to do with Cinco de Mayo, not even tangentially. Take, for example, auto insurance sales. From an press release this week:

Online insurance lead generator is announcing their Cinco de Mayo promotion. Every new agent that registers before or on the 5th of May will receive five free auto insurance leads that can be used within two weeks of signing up.

The promotion will be running from April 30th until May 5th, inclusively.

5) It's one of the holidays that anti-drunk driving advocates warn about most

And rightly so. In addition to groups like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), related groups like San Diego's Cinco de Mayo Con Orgullo have come out in early May to warn revelers and drivers, and in some cases to rail against the use of the holiday as a vehicle for liquor sales.

For anyone who may still be shouting "Wooo!" as the bars close, here is MADD's warning:

If you are planning to drink on Cinco de Mayo:

  • Plan ahead to designate a sober driver before going out to celebrate

  • Eat during the evening by enjoying your favorite Mexican foods during the evening

  • If you can’t plan ahead, ask a sober friend for a ride home or call a cab or friend or family member to come and get you

  • Use mass transit if available

  • Take the keys and never let a friend leave your sight if you think they are too impaired to drive.

And if you're not planning to drink, MADD warns, remember that others do, so exercise caution.

Have a safe holiday.