Cinco de Mayo is an opportunity to partake in commemorative events that honor Mexican culture — but did you know where the source of our celebration originates? While we honor this tradition in the Bull City, we're paying tribute to the irreplaceable contributions of the Hispanic community both in Durham and in the U.S., and inviting you to support Hispanic-owned events and places that specialize in authentic Mexican fare.
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What it's all about
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla in 1862, when a small, largely unorganized army of mostly indigenous Mexicans defeated French forces with plans to conquer the independent country. It's not, contrary to what may have assumed, the independence day of Mexico.
Mexican soldiers defended the city of Puebla against all odds, forcing the French to retreat, and not attempt an invasion for another year. Their unlikely, courageous victory had major implications in other areas of the United States, as well. Had Mexicans lost the Battle of Puebla, the French could have assisted the Confederacy at a critical time in the Civil War. The outcome may have been much, much different for Americans.
Today, Americans are largely the only country who celebrate this holiday. Only the city of Pueblo, Mexico, is where native Mexicans celebrate this holiday. We're happy to note that here in Durham, a story of unique Hispanic heritage is thriving.
Durham's Rich Hispanic History
From Tobacco to Tortillas, an ABC News story reads... a stark homage to the progress Durham's growing Hispanic community has made in the Bull City. The piece follows Roselia Flores, the entrepreneur who started restaurant Super Taqueria in 2001, and supermarket La Superior in 2005. The supermarket employs 49 people and is supported by vendors from Mexico, Central, and Latin America. She secured grants and a loan from the historically black-owned Mechanics and Farmers Bank, and her success is a glimpse into the power of community-based support and empowerment that has been a common thread throughout Durham for generations, in all walks of life.
Durham's Hispanic community grew to approximately 36,000 people (about 14 percent of the city's population) in 2010, and continues to flourish from diverse immigrant and domestic relocation origins. Host to a Hispanic-led restaurants, businesses, and churches (like El Centro Hispano, Durham Hispanic Ministries, and the Hispanic House of Studies), Durham is progressing in exploring opportunities to integrate bi-lingual and intercultural values into city and county life.
Primavera en Durham
From now until Wednesday, May 15, Monday through Saturday from noon-10 p.m., the Durham Hotel is hosting Primavera en Durham. In collaboration with Chef Miguel Torres, all are invited to celebrate spring with the flavors of his childhood in Guanajuato, Mexico. The Primavera menu will be served all day and all night in the restaurant; check out the menu.
The owners of the Tamale Factory and Tequila Bar have created a relaxed, authentic atmosphere in their newly open Mexican restaurant and bar in Durham. It boasts handmade tamales, fresh lime margaritas, seasonal cocktails, and delicious sangrias among other slow simmered specialties made fresh daily. Beginning with cinco eve on Saturday May 4 at 6 p.m. through Sunday, they'll host live music, as well as raffles, prizes, games and more.
As one Yelp reviewer wrote about La Superior Carniceria (La Superior for short), "You may think it is just a grocery store when you drive by, but it is so much more." Beyond the market is the bakery which offers fresh tortillas and other baked goods. Behind that is the restaurant where everything is fresh and made to order.
Taqueria La Vaquita
Taqueria La Vaquita or "The Cow Store" as it is affectionately called, is well-known for the bovine statue that adorns its roof. But it's famous around these parts for its delicious Mexican cuisine and beverages.
La Monarca Michoacana
For a sweet treat, head to La Monarca Michoacana, which specializes in Mexican-style paletas and ice cream. Can't decide on what to get? No shame in getting both.
North Durham's Super Taqueria offers a mouth-watering selection of sopes, tacos, burritos, and gorditas, plus a loaded salsa bar. Pair your food with an agua fresca for a stellar meal.
Restaurante Guanjauto de Durham
When you see the sign with a smiling chili pepper wearing a sombrero, you know you've made it to the right place. From a Yelp reviewer, Restaurante Guanajuato de Durham is "...authentic, wonderful, flavorful, and comforting. The Chile Rellenos is like a warm hug from grandma." The menus are in Spanish, but they do have an English version by request.
Cocoa Cinnamon – Lakewood
For amazing coffee drinks, hot chocolate, and churros, head to Cocoa Cinnamon's third location in the Lakewood neighborhood. The owners, Leon and Areli Berrera de Grodski, were inspired by the churrerias of Mexico, and you can find nods to Areli's Mexican background in the bilingual menus and signage as well as the brightly patterned decor and tilework.
The Durham Green Flea Market
You can find just about everything at the Durham Green Flea Market: housewares, produce, clothes, jewelry, and amazing restaurants and other eateries. Open Saturdays and Sunday from 7 a.m.-5 p.m., you'll find a number of ethnically diverse and local vendors.
Click here for an exhaustive list of partners on our website to enjoy as you celebrate the holiday. Enjoy!