Mexican what?

It was the late 70’s and I hadn’t been in California that long. I was hardly used to a culture so different from places I’d lived the rest of my life —all east of the Hudson. I had no idea where things were. In fact, I thought Hawaii was right off the coast of LA, since that’s where it was pictured on a map.

I also had no idea what grew where. Walnuts on a tree? Even heavy oranges? Where I grew up there were no seasons for fruits and vegetables—they came to us from *somewhere or other* all year, many in their own little molded foam containers.

Another difference was the celebration of holidays. As a kid, I knew all about Patriot’s Day

Listen, my children, and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.

and so on.

In fact we had the day off from school!

And, of course, July 4, INDEPENDENCE DAY, was celebrated with great aplomb, all through New England, New York, DC, all the places I’d lived—with concerts, fireworks, BBQs, flags everywhere.

Cheers for the red, white, and blue.

In California, however, a bigger fuss seemed to be made on May 5, Cinco de Mayo. I tried to get in the spirit of that day, and even included a mention of it in an early book in the Periodic Table mysteries—Mexican Independence Day, I proclaimed!


It turns out, Mexican Independence Day is September 16, commemorating Mexico’s independence from Spain. May 5, on the other hand, is the anniversary of Mexico’s victory over the French Empire. What?

I learned this the hard way—in an email from a professor at a college in Mexico City, excoriating me and my error. Such a gringo, she said.

I apologized, of course, and I repeat it here. Hopefully, you’ll never make that mistake.


Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “Mexican what?”

  1. Maryellen says:

    I am surprised that Cinco de Mayo is even celebrated in California. I really thought it was a made up gringo celebration in the Northeast so we could drink tequila! I did know it wasn’t Mexican Independence Day, but did not realize it had any significance at all in Mexican culture. LOL