Holidays you've never heard of
There are many holidays and festivals in Mexico that are celebrated nowhere else on earth. These range from the mundane (18 March is La Expropiacion Petrolera, a day to celebrate the expropriated foreign-held oil wells in 1938) to the moderately disturbing. The Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a celebration honouring dead relatives and friends with candles and offerings. This festival, held on 1 November, is an interesting combination of many traditions dating back to before colonization by Europeans as well as Christian observances. It is said that the migratory monarch butterflies, which return to Mexico around this time, are the returning souls of the departed.
All of these pale in comparison to the revelry that surrounds the 5th of May. The festival, called the Cinco de Mayo, commemorates the victory of Mexican forces over the French in 1862. The anniversary of this decisive battle has spread across the country and become nearly as popular as St. Patrick's Day in America, particularly those regions close to the border. In any case, what else do you have to do on the 5th of May?
NB what about: Mestizo 103 Hampstead Road, London, NW1, tel: 020 7387 4064 Mexican goes upmarket in this smart, modern restaurant, complete with slick bar and shop stocked with dried chillies, corn husks and bottled sauces. Downstairs is a moody, chill-out tequila bar and lounge. Co-owner Marysol Alvarado previously ran Si Senor in Soho, while chef Valeria Cheshistz cooked at Mexico City's Los Panchos. Try the cactus salad, ceviche Acapulco style, or the mole from Puebla.
- Nicholas Carter