How to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Phoenix

Written by Lauren Loftus Category: Culture Issue: May 2017
Group Free

Cinco de Mayo, much like St. Patrick’s Day, has come to mean beer-fueled cultural appropriation rather than historical cultural celebration. I’m Irish and though I’m not personally offended when people booze it up while dressed like leprechauns on March 17, I do understand being frustrated by frat bros who refuse to learn about why they’re partying.

To that end, I'll give you a (very abridged) history lesson on Cinco de Mayo, which is always confused as Mexican Independence Day (which is Sept. 16, for those wondering). The fifth of May is a very minor holiday in Mexico celebrating the date of the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). Other than the state of Puebla, Cinco de Mayo is not typically observed in the rest of Mexico. The reason we celebrate in the U.S. is due to Chicano activists who raised awareness of the holiday in the 1960s.

There is a wealth of information online about the holiday’s history, its infiltration into America and ways to celebrate respectively (see this post from The Huffington Post). Many of the results you’ll find by Googling “How Not To Culturally Appropriate Cinco De Mayo,” suggest A) learning about the holiday and B) celebrating with authentic food and drink. Sorry Chili’s.

OK, I’ll step down from soap box now and simply encourage you to get out there and experience the wonderfully rich Mexican and Chicano culture we have in Phoenix. Celebrate better this year.

Photo courtesy Cinco Phoenix

Cinco Phoenix
May 7, 12-10 p.m.
Washington St. & First Ave., Downtown Phoenix
A Cinco de Mayo tradition in Phoenix for 24 years, Cinco Phoenix is one of the largest multicultural celebrations in Arizona. Check out the street fair for live music, lucha libre wrestling, ballet folkorico performances, traditional food and drink and prizes and giveaways. $5 general admission.

Heard Museum Fiesta de Familia
May 5, 6-10 p.m.
2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
Enjoy free general admission for the whole family for First Friday, along with activities artist demonstrations, music and food. Or, splurge on a $7 ticket to the special exhibit of Mexico’s most notorious artist couple, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Spanish guitarist Miguel de Maria will play inside the exhibit gallery.

Cinco de Mayo feat. Las Chollas Peligrosas
May 5, 6 p.m.
Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. 2nd Ave., Phoenix
Female folk fusion? Sounds about right. Celebrate modern Mexican sound with a free show by the Las Chollas Peligrosas quintet with a Latin folkorico sound.

Aunt Chilada’s Cinco de Mayo Party
May 5, 3 p.m.-2 a.m.
7330 N. Dreamy Draw Dr., Phoenix
The normally sleepy Mexican restaurant gets bumping once a year for its Cinco de Mayo fiesta, with live music, cornhole battles, margaritas and tequila samples. $10.

CRUlaboration Pop-Up
May 7, 12-3 p.m.
Pedal Haus Brewery, 730 S. Mill Ave., Tempe
CRUjiente Tacos and Pedal Haus Brewery are debuting their pop-up event, a collaboration between the two restaurants in which guests can enjoy a specialty taco paired with the made-from-scratch new Blood Orange Gose-style beer. Get the combo for $6.50. (If you can’t make it Sunday, stop by CRUjiente on Monday for the same combo deal from 5-8 p.m.)

Joyride tacos. Photo courtesy MMPR.

Taco Guild
May 5
546 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix
Voted the No. 2 Mexican restaurant in the U.S. by the Travel Channel’s Food Paradise, the historic church-turned-restaurant Taco Guild is offering a special deal for Cinco de Mayo happy hour goers. Get a $12 Americana cocktail, which is any draft beer with a shot of Mexican Moonshine Reposado.

Sierra Bonita Grill
May 5
6933 N. 7th St., Phoenix
More Southwestern than Mexican, this North Central Phoenix grill named for a historic cattle ranch is offering some great deals for Cinco de Mayo. Get a traditional margarita or a pomegranate margarita for $5 each all day; scoop up a lunch special from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for $12; and happy hour will be extended from 3 to 6 p.m. with additional cocktails and food items available for $7.

Joyride – May 5
May 5
Phoenix and Gilbert locations
Yeah, it’s not remotely traditional but Joyride does make a decent taco… and the best horchata I’ve had in a long time. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., get aguas frescas, glasses of wine and pitchers of beer for $5 each. Seven different margaritas will go for just $5 each and seven varieties of tacos will sell for $2 a pop from 2 to 6 p.m.

Social Tap Eatery
May 5, 4 p.m.-2 a.m.
4312 N. Brown Ave., Scottsdale
The most gringo on the list but Old Town’s Social Tap Eatery happens to celebrate their one-year anniversary on Cinco de Mayo. Enjoy carnitas, chicken and fish tacos for $2.50 each, $2 taquitos, $6 frozen cocktails and $5 tequila shots while playing yard games like Giant Jenga and corn hole.