Cinco de Mayo in the West End, Dallas

Forgive me for putting my discussion of Cinco de Mayo off for a full week after the event, folks; I meant no disrespect. As it happens, there was a family emergency, and I was called out of town last week after I’d begin writing this entry. But now I’m back, so let the party continue!

Given our significant Hispanic heritage here in DFW (after all, Texas was once a part of Mexico), there were numerous Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the Metroplex this past weekend, two of which (those in Grand Prairie and Denton) I listed on my 2008 Events Calendar. However, just to keep ya’ll on your toes, I decided to go to one that I didn’t actually put on the calendar, but only because I didn’t find out about it until the day before. This one took place on Saturday, May 3, in Dallas’ West End. This was cool, because it meant I could get there by the local spiffy DART train from downtown Garland. My only complaint? It now costs three dollars for a day pass. Ouch. But at least when they give you change, you get those way-cool new dollar coins they’ve been handing out lately. Got James Madison this time; last time it was George Washington and John Adams.

For those not in the know, Cinco de Mayo celebrates the victory of Mexican forces over French invaders at the pivotal Battle of Puebla back in 1862. That was back when some of Napoleon’s descendants decided they wanted a presence in the New World again — so they decided to take over Mexico and put some guy named Maximilian on the throne as Emperor. This did not sit well with the Mexicans, and who can blame them? Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day, despite the popular American belief  that it is; that’s September 16. Oddly enough, in Mexico the holiday is barely observed outside of Puebla. However, it’s been observed regularly in the United States by people of Mexican descent (and sundry others) since 1863.

I had a very nice time at the West End’s version of Cinco de Mayo, with its spirited combination of beer, dancing, food, fun, beer, and music.  Oh, and did I mention the beer? There were several  stages set up for the musical guests, including these fellows (who were more jazzy than Hispanic), not to mention a number of streets blocked off and set up for various other activities, such as wondering around, dancing, and drinking beer.

Band

In fact, there were quite a few dancers, including this couple, who were joined by their own toddler groupie in the jivin’. You can’t tell it in this photo, but the little one’s dancing right along.

Dancin’

Earlier, several other groups took their turns, including this attractively-dressed bunch of young ‘uns.

Dancers

Here’s a portrait of one young dancer. Isn’t she cute?

Dancing girl

The celebration wasn’t huge — it only covered a part of the West End — but it was interesting, and there was plenty to do. Aside from all the bars and restaurants, there were jump houses and activities for the kids, samples of food to try, art to examine, and copious beer to drink. There was even this:

Segway

Remember how that Dean Kanin guy once tried to convince us that the Segway would change modern cities as we knew them, but somehow they haven’t yet? Yeah. I know they’re supposed to be super-stable and everything (even though the President managed to fall off one*), but come on. Have you ever ridden one? You don’t even get to sit down, and they don’t go all that fast, really. Boooorrrring. Plus, they’re too bloody expensive. I can count the number of times I’ve seen ’em in use on one hand, and it’s been what, ten years since their introduction? And here they were, asking people to pay $5 to ride one for five minutes. Uh, yeah.

But moving right along… Here’s a cool alternative method of transportation, and it probably wasn’t all that expensive. I saw several horse-drawn carriages out and about, including one led by this attractive fellow.

Pretty Horse

At one of the seafood stands, where they offered samples of their wares, they were selling boiled crawfish (or crayfish, if you prefer) for a mere $2.99 a pound. That’s not all that bad. The thing about it is, you have to boil them fresh, and fresh means they have to go into the boiling water alive. They had a tub full of crawdaddies in ice sitting out on the street next to a lamp post, and they did not look charmed to see us. This was one of the larger ones.

Watch it, buddy!

This fellow had an evil stare, he did.

I didn’t prevail myself of the crawfish — they’re okay, but I like shrimp better — but I did chow down on some gator bits. They were delicious — if you’ve never had gator before, try it whenever you get a chance. It’s generally nice and lean, and no, it doesn’t taste like chicken. Let me tell you something: in keeping with the tradition of high-priced festival foods, this “sample” here cost me $4.00. As you can see, all I got were enough bits to cover the bottom of the container, plus some admittedly spicy dipping sauce.

Gator Bits

But that’s not Cinco de Mayo’s fault. For the best in Hispanic culture, my recommendation is that you go to the West End’s celebration next year if you find yourself around the Metroplex;  or failing that, any Cinco de Mayo celebration you can find. There are plenty, from backyard get-togethers to downtown shindigs. They have a great one in Grand Prairie, and another one in Denton, in Quakertown Park. You might even have a chance to see some well-dressed Mariachis, like these guys.

Mariachis

Unfortunately I only saw them in passing; I didn’t get to see them play. I must have been somewhere else during their set. In the classic words of Bart Simpson: ¡Ay caramba!

*But then, this was the same President that almost choked to death on a pork rind while watching TV. We love ya, Dubya!

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