Now I have confessed that I come from the upper midwest, and with the geographical coordinates “at the top, near the middle” this segment of the hockey-crazed US is more likely to house lots of Canadians than lots of Mexicans. However, I had never really thought much about how pervasive the Mexican influence is in US culture. There is essentially no Mexican influence here in the UK. This is likely not a shocking revelation to anyone who has thought about geography for 5 seconds, but it had somehow never occurred to me!
My epiphany on the subject came in a rather funny form. This past Saturday was the 5th of May, which is “Cinco de Mayo,” a minor holiday in the US typically associated with Mexican pride but used as a good excuse for everyone to drink margaritas and eat tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole. Note: these may be reasonably non-authentic in their grocery store incarnations, but at the moment I would trade all the taramosalata in Sainsbury’s for one good container each of fresh salsa and guac. And yes, I know I could make some, and in the end I probably will have to.
Back to Cinco de Mayo. It is a holiday not unlike St. Patrick’s day in that it has become an excuse to drink particular adult beverages in honor of a nation to which you probably have no connection. My sister was here on the day, so we looked long and hard to find an appropriate venue in which to consume a margarita. This was surprisingly difficult, and on arrival at the eventual selection we were bemused to realize that no one there seemed to know it was a minor drinking holiday. We did, however, note that the place seemed to be overrun with other people who were clearly not from around here. In the days since, I have tried to tell this story to several Brits, and in every case the term “Cinco de Mayo” has earned particularly blank stares. I get it. There’s no reason for Mexican influence to be found on this funny little island. I’ll try to keep my wits about me, remember where I am, and stop acting surprised. In the meantime, this midwestern girl finds herself startlingly nostalgic for decent Mexican food and top-shelf margaritas.