Although it has become more of a Chicano holiday than a Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo marks the victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The Mexican army was eventually defeated, but the battle demonstrated Mexico's determination to stand up against imperialist states, and so became a symbol of unity and patriotism. To put it in perspective, the holiday is comparable to a celebration of Washington crossing the Delaware to defeat the Hessians at Trenton — if we'd then lost the Revolutionary War — a sobering subtext for a holiday. But then unity and patriotism against imperialist states are worth celebrating. That's reason one.
Reason two: Casa Tina's gourmet Mexican and vegetarian restaurant throws a great Cinco de Mayo fiesta. This year's street party, Casa Tina's 11th annual, takes place from 5 to 11 p.m. Monday, May 5. Part of the street in front of the restaurant is closed off to allow an area for outdoor tables and dancing. There's live music by Latin jazz band Los Cuatro Amigos (a featured act at Centro Ybor). Tina herself judges a chihuahua machismo/beauty contest. (Tina's reportedly very fair in presiding over the contest and doesn't favor her friends' chihuahuas.) There's also a Frida Kahlo look-alike contest, which has previously been a hit. A special 20-item menu includes pescado a la vera cruz, chile rellenos and mole poblano — ancho and New Mexico chiles and Mexican chocolate in an exotic sauce served over chicken, cheese or veggie enchiladas.
Reason three: You read the part about the Mexican chocolate, right?
Reason four: It's a chance to toast with a glass of your favorite Mexican beverage, be it Corona, Cuervo or Jarritos (that excessively sweet and fizzy soda you've seen in bodegas and ought to try).
Reason five: Cultural enlightenment cannot come by getting a gordita and a Mountain Dew at a Taco Bell drive-thru.
Casa Tina's is located at 369 Main St., Dunedin. 727-734-9226.