1 May

Cinco de Mayo, Australian style

It’s an age-old tradition – borrowing another country’s holiday as an organized excuse to party. Yes, Aussies love a reason, possibly any reason, to knock back a few cold ones: from passing around pints of Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day to downing Tsingtaos for Chinese New Year and emptying stein after stein of wheat bier during Oktoberfest.

This year looks to be the coming out party for another cultural plonkfest – Cinco de Mayo (“5th of May”), a previously little-known day in Australia that celebrates Mexican pride and heritage. Cinco de Mayo parties have been held in small doses before, but Australia’s current Mexican food boom seems to be turning the day into a party circuit of tacos, enchiladas, mariachi bands, cerveza (beer, that is) and salt-rimmed margaritas.

Just don’t call it Mexican Independence Day, a common misnomer. Not only is that another holiday, but Cinco de Mayo is actually observed more in the United States than in Mexico – unless you find yourself in the Mexican state of Puebla. That’s where, on 5 May 1862, some 4,000 Mexican soldiers, poorly outfitted with pitchforks and shovels, took on an 8,000-strong and far better equipped French army attempting to claim the country. Against all odds, the Mexicans stopped and defeated the French. Out of that sense of pride and nationalism by Mexican-Americans arose Cinco de Mayo. (Feel free to overlook the fact that the French eventually managed to occupy Mexico for a few years.)

Among those leading Australia’s Cinco de Mayo charge is Attila Yilmaz, the owner of one of Sydney’s just-launched, first fleet of food trucks: the Al Carbón taco truck. Attila can’t claim any Mexican blood of his own – he’s Turkish – but he has a great love for the country and its food. For Cinco de Mayo, he’s paying homage with a party at his new La Lupita warehouse in Canterbury. The “speakeasy” space serves as the home base and commercial kitchen for his taco truck and a shelter to continue serving out of the truck when the Sydney rain threatens his coals, which he uses for authentic, slow-cooked meats.

“I’ve always loved Latin American and Mexican culture,” says Attila, who travelled extensively through Mexico City, Baja and other parts of Northern Mexico to get a deep understanding of Mexican cooking and culture. For the Cinco festivities, he’s holding a taquiza, a type of backyard party that he says is “like an informal taco party that you have with friends and family.” Making your own tacos is part of the taquiza tradition. “We’ll have a taco bar and the barbecue fired up,” he says. “We’ve got live Mexican bands lined up; lots of tequila and the tacos will be flowing.”

In addition to Al Carbón’s taquiza, there are plenty of other opportunities around Australia to kick back in a sombrero, talk about gringos and do a hat dance while gripping a bottle of Corona. Here’s a roundup:

Sydney

La Lupita
325 Canterbury Rd, Canterbury
5 May, 7pm-midnight. $35. All-you-can-eat tacos, mariachi and Latino bands, and fruit-flavoured shaved ice, plus a cash bar of beer, tequila, sangria and more.

El Loco
64 Fouveaux St, Surry Hills
5-12 May. Mariachi bands, a whole roasted pig, a taco-eating challenge and a taco and tequila masterclass.

City Hotel
Corner of Kent and King sts, Sydney CBD
4 May. The Sydney Expat American and Canadian Meetup groups join forces for the Cinco de Mayo Mexican Fiesta that also has a Star Wars theme as it coincides with nerd celebration ‘May The 4 Be With You’. There will authentic food cooked by a Mexican native, Mexican drinks and plenty of piñata smashing.

Brisbane

Mexican Festival
Riverlife Precinct, Kangaroo Point
5 May, 4pm-late. $55. Mexican beers, tequila and cuisine.

Melbourne

LuWow
62-70 Johnston St, Fitzroy
5 May, 5pm-late. $10. Go-go dancers, burlesque acts, wrestling and music from Abbie Cardwell and the Chicano Rockers.

Nationwide

Mad Mex
Various locations
28 April-5 May
$5 veggie nachos. $25 tequila tastings.

Mexican wrestling mask photo by Calsidyrose
Pinata photo by Mark Scott