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Omnivore - Chicano pride and marketing finesse

Back in the 1980s, I spent the better part of a year hanging out in the Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende, which had a heavy population of North American artists and writers. By the early '90s, San Miguel was discovered by the so-called jet set, which promptly ruined its bohemian style — much as they ruined Santa Fe and Taos in this country.

It was in San Miguel and in Houston, where I also lived a few years, that I developed a love of Mexican cooking. It's also where I learned that Cinco de Mayo, that boozy festival of margaritas and mariachi in this country, was greatly ignored in much of Mexico. Officially, the holiday marks the Mexican army's defeat of the French at Puebla — a town 100 miles east of Mexico City — on May 5, 1862. The victory was short-lived, however, and is mainly commemorated in Puebla, with little attention from the rest of Mexico.

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has become an occasion of Chicano pride and marketing finesse. Americans head to their favorite Mexican — or Tex-Mex — restaurant, guzzle tequila and listen to 347 verses of "Besame Mucho" until they are willing to pay the mariachi band any amount of money to leave their table side.





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