I know I need to write about Vietnam, but processing the unexpected onslaught of emotions I experienced there into digestible posts will probably take some time. In the meantime, I’m going to babble on about whatever is in my head. Today, that’s Cinco de Mayo.
On May 5th, 1862 the Mexican army defeated the French army in the Battle of Puebla despite having worse provisions and half the number of soldiers. The Mexican victory in la Batalla de Puebla represents Mexico’s force, resilience, and spirit while also being the last time any European army attacked the Americas.
But, the victory didn’t take. France still claimed Mexico City and “ruled” for a few years. While folks in Puebla celebrate Cinco de Mayo, the more important national holiday is Independence Day, commemorating the start of the Mexican War of Independence from Spain on September 16, 1810. Dieciséis de Septiembre is to Mexico as the Fourth of July is to America. That’s the holiday Mexicans celebrate with great fanfare.
Yet, for some reason, Americans love to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Or, at least Tostitos, Corona, and Jose Cuervo would have you believe that Cinco de Mayo is something that needs to be celebrated through the mass consumption of their products. Basically Frito-Lay (USA), Grupo Modelo (Anheuser-Busch InBev of Belgium, owns 50%), and Diageo (UK) have decided that Cinco de Mayo will be the Mexican St. Paddy’s Day, and that everyone should get very drunk drinking mostly European-owned beers and eating mostly American-owned snack foods while celebrating a battle that represented the spirit of Mexico against global forces.
Today’s date in Thailand is May 5th, 2555. Unlike the Gregorian calendar that counts the years passed since Jesus’ alleged death*, the Thai calendar counts the years passed since the Buddha’s alleged death**. Buddha is widely believed to have left his earthly body approximately 543 years before Jesus left his. Therefore, when you go to Thailand, you’re basically going to the future. So far, 2555 has been pretty sweet. Highly recommended.
Remember when everyone in America got married on 11/11/11? That is happening in Thailand today, as everyone is loving the date 5/5/55. The number five in Thai is ห้า, pronounced “ha.” So today’s date equates to “hahahaha.”
And just like that Thailand wins Cinco de Mayo.
Later tonight, we may go to the UN Irish Pub, where we will be most likely to meet Cinco de Mayo revelers demonstrating just how not to be a tourist. Nothing like watching a bunch of Eurbros**** in sombreros break every social rule possible in a matter of minutes.
*I say “alleged” because a lot of people wouldn’t say that Jesus is dead, even though the verbiage used to describe the start of the Gregorian calendar is exactly that. I mean, isn’t the foundation of Christianity that he rose from the dead? So are we really celebrating the crucifixion or the rising? Doesn’t a huge part of Christianity center on the thought that no one really dies? That the soul just goes somewhere else to hang out? This is why I’m bad at being religious***.
**Likewise, Buddha didn’t really die, he just abandoned his weak, human body and his soul went to hang out in Parinirvana. The Siamese calendar is just a cultural adaptation of the Gregorian calendar, which is kind of awesome in that they were like, “Oh no we won’t count years after your dude, we have our own dude” but the logic of counting years from the death of someone who is believed to not have died still goes over my head.
***Please, please, please, no one take this as an opportunity to “educate” me on Christianity or Buddhism or religion. I’ve had plenty of religious education! It just didn’t take. I pinky swear I won’t address it ever again on this blog or at your dinner party or with your family or at Thanksgiving.
****My new term for the gap year sort of young European backpacker on the party trail. You can generally identify a Eurbro by his beer-label emblazoned tank top, shorts, flip-flips, and love of Chang beers. See Figure 1.
Figure 1. Boys in drag on St. Paddy’s Day lying on the floor of 7-11 in Chiang Mai.
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