By Felicity Clarke, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – Line up the tequila shots and get ready to dance the Macarena, because the major holiday celebrating Mexican culture is approaching. As to when, the clue is in the name, next week is Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May, or May 5th), the most internationally recognized Mexican holiday. As such, fiestas of a Mexican flavor will be had the world over, including here in Rio.

Dancers at the annual Cinco de Mayo Festival in Washington, D.C., photo by dbking/Wikipedia Creative Commons License.

Cinco de Mayo is not, as is commonly assumed, Mexican Independence Day (which is September 16th) but is actually a regional holiday marking Mexico´s unlikely victory against French invaders in the Battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862.

Responding with force against Mexico’s reluctance to pay interest on international debts, Emperor Napoleon III (nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte) orchestrated an invasion to occupy Central America´s biggest country. After early successes in the invasion, the French army met resistance at the city of Puebla.

Despite being outnumbered and less equipped, the Mexican militia were victorious. The battle is the last instance of a country in the Americas being invaded by a country from another continent.

Although a Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo arguably has more significance in the U.S. where it is more widely recognized than in Mexico: historically because the defeat of Napoleon III meant the defeat of a leader with anti-American feeling, and culturally because the festival is widely celebrated by Americans of Mexican descent.

Traditionally Mexican food is part of the celebration, here Blue Agave's nachos, photo by Felicity Clarke.

So American neighbors celebrate Mexico’s vibrant culture, giving center stage for a day with a special focus on food, music and dancing. In Rio, it’s an opportunity to check out the bars and restaurants with a Mexican flavor.

Blue Agave, the popular Mexican restaurant on Rua Vinicius de Moraes in Ipanema will be having a Cinco de Mayo fiesta. As co-owner Richard Nelson explains, it´s a great celebratory day: “Everyone goes crazy for Cinco de Mayo in the States with lots of parties and Mexican food. We want to bring a bit of that here”.

Kicking off from 6pm there are plans for DJ Karl Rodgers to play a tropical blend of chilled Latin beats and good old rock n roll plus there’ll be a R$5 menu with margaritas, nachos and tacos.

With the greatest concentration of Mexican restaurants in the city, Barra de Tijuca is a good place to indulge in hot chili action for the holiday with places like the leafy, forest-set El Pallomar on Avenida Armando Lombardi, the lively Taco Tequila bar one block from the beachfront on Avenida Olegário Maciel serving fast food tacos, and the quaint Taco & Chilli on Avenida Sernambetiba who offer a rodizio (all you can eat) menu for R$32.70.

While the Rio may not roll out the elaborate full scale celebrations seen in its native city of Puebla and some major U.S. cities, there’s ample opportunity to join the global fiesta and celebrate Mexico, and indeed the Americas’ independence.

Blue Agave, Rua Vinicius de Moraes, 68, Ipanema, tel: (21) 3592-9271
El Pallomar, Av. Armando Lombardi, 350, Barra da Tijuca, tel: (21) 2494-6218
Taco Tequila, Av. Olegário Maciel, 231, Barra da Tijuca, tel: (21) 2493-4868
Taco & Chilli, Av. Sernambetiba, 2860, Barra da Tijuca, tel: (21) 2945-4005



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