Let’s face it: It’s a weird thing to celebrate. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day. Instead, it commemorates the day on May 5, 1862, when 5,000 poorly outfitted Mexican soldiers walloped the French and traitor Mexican army of 8,000 at Puebla, 100 miles east of Mexico City. It’s remembered as the Battle of Puebla . And although the Mexican army was eventually defeated, the battle became a symbol of Mexican unity and patriotism. Wooohooo! Bring on the tequila shots! Right? Cinco de Mayo has blossomed into an annual festival of excess with a side order of tacos. Here’s our take on some of the best options this year.
DUNEDIN STREET FESTIVAL
Dress as your favorite Latin character on Saturday and get out to downtown Dunedin’s annual street festival with arts and crafts, face painting, salsa dancing and lessons, a parade of 20-foot-tall puppets, drum line and a dance party with live music by Orquesta Infinidad and Trio Potenica Huasteca. 4-11 p.m. Casa Tina Gourmet Mexican & Vegetarian, 365 Main St., Dunedin. No cover. (727) 734-9226.
QUATRO DE MAYO
Consider it a warm-up. Locale Market in St. Petersburg invites you to fiesta like there’s no mañana at its Cuatro de Mayo First Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. The market chefs will be serving up pozole (shredded cabbage, shaved radish and Florida lime), pollo con mole (chicken, stewed black beans and spring onions), tostadas de ceviche (gulf-caught fish, crispy corn tortilla and chili salt), tacos callejeros (housemade chorizo, potatoes and queso cotija) and pastel de tres leches (butter cake, whipped cream and fresh strawberries). Try it all for $19.99 advance, $24.99 at the door. Add a wine and beer tasting for an additional $9.99. localemarket.tocktix.com.
ROCKING AT ROCCO’S
Rocco’s Tacos, with seven locations around the state, is a Florida go-to for all things Cinco on Saturday. Starting at noon, the Tampa location, which opened several months ago in International Plaza’s Bay Street, will offer live entertainment, drink specials, DJs, giveaways and free tequila pourings by Rocco himself and "Team Cinco." Among the allures are tableside guacamole and 330 varieties of tequila; avail yourself of Uber. 2223 N Westshore Blvd., Tampa. (813) 800-8226.
CINCO AND SILENCE?
Mastry’s Brewing Co. is doing something a little outside the box this Cinco: On Saturday, $10 gets you a set of headphones for the night and a full pour of your favorite Mastry’s Brewing Co. beer. Three DJs will be spinning the best of reggae, modern dance/hip hop and ’80s/’90s old school — make your selection and get your groove on with those headphones. In anticipation of extreme calories burned, they’ve lined up Pattie King food truck ($5 and up) for sustenance. 5 to 11 p.m. 7701 Blind Pass Road, St. Pete Beach. (727) 202-8045.
Bahama Breeze started the party almost a week early with classic margaritas for $5 all week, through Saturday. This is the time to get out of your limey comfort zone, though, with hibiscus, mango, tamarind, strawberry and blood orange (all right, the special ones start at $8.99). 3045 N Rocky Point Drive E, Tampa. (813) 289-7922.
CINCO DE DERBY?
With the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo falling on the same date, how is one supposed to decide which to celebrate? Celebrate all the things! Dough in Tampa is celebrating Cinco de Derby with mint julep/margarita mashups including $4 mint julep margarita cupcakes (bourbon peppermint cupcakes topped with key lime frosting) as well as mint julep margarita sorbet (bourbon, triple sec, lime, black salt), $3.55 for one scoop, both available through Sunday. 2602 S MacDill Ave., Tampa. (813) 902-1979.