We drove south to Puebla from Teotihuacán, arriving in the afternoon of Cinco de Mayo. I found a great deal on a hotel which was appropriately named Hotel Cinco de Mayo. And as we navigated there, our map informed us that Hotel Cinco de Mayo could be found on Avenida Héroes de Cinco de Mayo. We felt very on brand.
As it turns out, Cinco de Mayo is a date of some significance in Puebla; the holiday commemorates a small but important Mexican military victory in 1862 over the French at the Battle of Puebla.
Wait, the French? Oui oui. In 1861, France invaded Mexico as part of a dispute over debts owed. Though the victory in Puebla a year later was a decisive set-back for the French, and is celebrated today for the patriotic morale boost it provided to the Mexican military and people at the time, the French actually went on to successfully capture Mexico City and rule the country.
But for like, a minute. Three years later, Napoleon the III got overwhelmed by a bunch of other dumpster-fires he had led France into, and withdrew from Mexico. He left Maximilian the I – the French Emperor in Mexico – to fend for himself, which didn’t go well. The Mexicans executed him in Querétaro, and got on with their lives as a sovereign nation. Sorry, Max.
So, for those who thought otherwise, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day (that is September 16). It is also not really celebrated in the rest of the country, as it was ultimately a localized battle. We’re still fuzzy on how it became such an important holiday north of the border, but to be clear, even in Puebla it is not the tequila and taco fest of U.S. tradition. In fact, from our view, the holiday was a pretty tame affair. The city hosted a parade down Avenida Héroes de Cinco de Mayo that we sadly arrived too late for, and a free public reenactment (in dance/pageant form) of the battle and its significance which we were lucky enough to catch in the evening. The main square, with its beautiful cathedral, also felt decidedly festive, though this could have just been because it was a weekend.
We spent the evening sharing some mole poblano, which Puebla is known for, and wandering the Centro Histórico, which has an eclectic mix of architectural styles and beautiful facade tiling.
The next morning, we awoke with our minds on our imminent departure from Mexico. We spread the contents of our entire mobile life across our hotel room, separating things into piles: 1. Things we intended to use but rarely did (for removal), 2. Things we sometimes use but maybe don’t need (for consideration of removal) and 3. things we are living in constantly.
Now well into our fourth month of traveling, we’ve learned that when the number of items you own and depend on is limited, and you carry it all yourself, you really either use the hell out of something, or you just. don’t. need it.
And so we filled a bag of items to be shipped back to the United States, watched some soccer on TV, and whiled away an afternoon in this anonymous hotel room, too preoccupied with the coming journey to see much more of Puebla. We left many sites unseen and snacks untasted, and will have to return!
The next day we’d return to Mexico City and return the Prizefighter, spend one last night enjoying the city’s splendor, and the following morning, before dawn, we’d be off to a new country and a new continent!