by Jack Lewis
I’ve heard of the big street parties, colorful parades and lively festivals in Mexico and have always wanted to experience at least one of these festive Baja events myself since I have never been to Mexico before. And just recently, I experienced not just one, but all three unique Mexican experiences in Baja California through a single celebration, the yearly Cinco de Mayo Festival.
Although I’ve always wanted to visit Baja California or any part of Mexico for that matter, I’ve never had the time, money or will to organize a proper vacation there. Some friends suggested a take a weekend and drive south but I was not up to driving myself to one of my dream vacation places in the entire world and just spending just a short weekend there and then driving back to LA. And then finally, the much awaited event happened. After two years of hard labor at the PR company I was working on, I finally got a two week vacation plus a performance bonus from my boss.
Since the opportunity presented itself so easily, I quickly took it. I filled up my trusty Ford Ranger with gasoline, invited two close friends, and drove south without looking back. My friends, Samantha and Jonathan, both of whom are college buddies of mine, suggested that we call ahead and book a room at a hotel there so we won’t have to go looking for lodging when we get there. But I kind of thought that looking for a great hotel, inn or vacation cottage is part of any vacation so I argued the point and won.
We drove for several hours to our intended location, San Jose del Cabo in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California. We had to stop by in La Pazhalf of the way and stayed overnight at a really nice bed and breakfast. We ate a hearty dinner home cooked by the owners themselves and took a nice dip at the beach although it was already night.
The next day, we continued along in pursuit of the fine white sand beaches, beach parties and colorful festivals of Cabo San Lucas. On the way there, we passed by several cities, towns and villages, all of which seemed to be preparing for a very big celebration or festival. After stopping by a gasoline station to air the tires, the gasoline station attendant told us the Cinco de Mayo was to be celebrated the next day and we were lucky to be in Mexico for this much-awaited annual celebration.
At the time, I didn’t know what Cinco de Mayo stood for and which May 5th in history was it that was commemorated every year in Mexico. All I knew was that it seemed like a very exciting and lively event, probably done to celebrate a patron saint or an important day in the Christian calendar. I found out though that I was way of the mark when we did arrive in Cabo San Lucas and the hotel concierge at the Los Cabos hotel we choose informed us that Cinco de Mayo was celebrated to commemorate the victory of the residents in Puebla, Mexico in May 5, 1862 against attacking French armies.
The street outside the hotel was laden with hanging banners and banderitas. There was food everywhere too, and I mean everywhere. Food stalls lined the sidewalks and there was even an elderly couple that gave us free empanadas as we passed by their home. There were stage performances on platforms set-up at public places too where singers, dancers and folk artists showed off what they can do. Shopping was also very lively and it was that only time I saw so many items sold in just one street market. We also went to two beach parties where gringos and locals alike, many of which are also fresh out of college, are dancing and flirting with each other. It was a most wonderful experience and I fully intend to come back next year for another Los Cabos festival experience in Baja California!