I didn’t even know Cinco de Mayo existed until I was in my early thirties, living in Atlanta. Maria, the gentle and motherly sous chef of the catering company where I worked, dramatically explained the origin of the holiday to me and insisted that I drink a Pacifico Clara with her in the kitchen after her shift was over.
I was thankful for the history lesson and adored Maria. From time to time, she would sneak into my office and, without saying a word, give me a sly wink and slide a plate of brownies or chocolate chip cookies onto my desk. Then she’d giggle and quickly scurry away. She also surprised me on my birthday by gleefully presenting a penis-shaped tres leche cake to me in front of the entire office.
For a couple of years after my Cinco de Mayo history lesson, I teased Maria by occasionally asking her, “Hey, when is Cinco de Mayo again?” She’d roll her eyes and suddenly dice some peppers a little harder than normal. “Cinco de Mayo,” she’d yell at me. “Cinco, five! Mayo, May! Lindo pero bobo!”
I don’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo but I do drink a beer on Cinco de Mayo to celebrate Maria, that sweet woman who possessed such a kind, fun spirit and a penis-shaped cake pan.