Cinco de Mayo traces its origins to a battle, but nowadays, the fifth of May is all about a fiesta. Several fiestas, actually, at least in Chicago. Meant to commemorate the Mexican army's victory over the heavily manned French at the Battle of Puebla 149 years ago, Cinco de Mayo has transformed into a day for all to celebrate the richness of Mexican culture. Chicago, with its thousands upon thousands of Mexican and Mexican American residents, sure knows how to bring on the música and the fiesta at these events.
Cinco de Mayo Parade: Get out your red, white and green for the Cinco de Mayo parade, which marches through Pilsen on Sunday, a few days before Cinco de Mayo. Men and women peddling ice cream and popsicles from white carts will mix with vendors and parade watchers as floats, dancers, bands and an all-out party streams by.
The parade starts at noon on May 1
Start is at Cermak and Wood, proceeding west to Cermak and Kedzie
Festival de Cinco de Mayo: A one-day party may not be enough to properly celebrate Cinco de Mayo, so the Festival de Cinco de Mayo has stretched the fiesta to three days and stuffed them with band after band to ensure ongoing liveliness. The festival in Little Village runs from May 6 - May 8, and will blare live ranchero tunes from bands like Los Jefes del Rancho and upbeat songs from Los Compas del Terre. For the kids, the festival will have arts and crafts and for everyone, food like tacos and tamales.
The fiesta runs from 6 pm - 11 pm May 6 and 2 pm - 11 pm May 7-8
26th Street and Kostner; 773-584-6684
Cinco de Mayo Gala: Support the National Museum of Mexican Art's collection of 6,000 works of Mexican textiles, prints, drawings, paintings, photography and ancient sculpture at the Cinco de Mayo Gala. The black-tie optional gala, which serves as the major annual fundraising event for the museum, will honor Terry Mazany, president and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust and Interim CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, with the museum's 2011 Arthur R. Velasquez Civic Award. If you'd rather check out the museum itself and its special exhibit on Mexico's indigenous Wixaritari, it's open from 10 am - 5 pm Tues.-Sun., including on Cinco de Mayo.
Gala runs from 6 pm - 10:30 pm May 6 at the Marriott Downtown Chicago, 540 N. Michigan Avenue
National Museum of Mexican Art is at 1852 W. 19th Street; 312-738-1503
Cinco de Miler: Run off all of those margaritas and tostadas at the Cinco de Miler, which will
wind itself for five miles (of course) up and down the lakefront south of Soldier Field. Goodies for runners include a long-sleeve tech tee -- emblazoned with a stick-figure runner sporting a sombrero -- and a finish-line fiesta with a bottle of Modelo Especial and a brunch of churros and tamales.
9:30 am May 7
Start is at 39th and Oakwood ("Cinco Express" shuttles will be provided from the Soldier Field Parking lots at 8 am); firstname.lastname@example.org
Cinco de Salsation: Celebrate funny with a Latin bent by checking out Cinco de Salsation on Cinco de Mayo at the Ristorante Al Teatro in Pilsen. The benefit fiesta supports the Salsation Theatre Company, NFP, a Latin sketch comedy troupe, which has been performing for the past dozen years. The fiesta will have food, music and a raffle with prizes like lessons at Latin Street Dancing and autographed baseballs and photos of Chicago White Sox pitcher Alexie Ramirez. Plus, each $20 ticket ($25 at the door), nets two tickets to the Salsation Fall Show, five raffle tickets, and a mention as a "Salsationista" in a future show program.
6 pm-10 pm May 5
1227 W. 18th Street; 312-784-9100