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Cinco de Mayo Hawaiian Style: Partying in Honolulu's Chinatown District
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World cultures mixing it up
The cultures of Mexico, Brazil, China, Japan the U.S. and Hawaii were all well-represented in this eclectic block party and street vendors provided a taste of cuisines from around the world. But people didn't come out just to taste exotic food-- they came out to get down.
Unlike Waikiki where the tourist crowd circulating around the shops and bars skews older, this downtown party was populated by people who looked to be in their 20s and 30s. There were plenty of girls in high heels with their flowers positioned on the right sides of their heads. Locals, military guys and young parents all came out to let loose.
All of chinatown was roped off for this event. Drinking in the street was allowed, but you had to buy a $4 wristband to buy drinks from the street vendors. It was a "make your own drink" style situation. The price of beer was $4. For $8 the vendors poured out a generous shot of liquor. From there, patrons could make their own cocktails from either margarita mix, pineapple juice, etc. There was also the option to buy a $10 club pass, which provided access to a variety of different clubs and the Arts at Mark's Garage.
On Oahu, people tend to clear off of the beaches right after sunset. On Waikiki, the tourists retreat back to their hotels or go out to the surrounding bars. With a few exceptions, most of the bars in Waikiki are pretty cheesy.
Another thing about Waikiki at night is that since it is an area frequented by tourists, it's also a gathering place for bums. They crowd the beach area at night, and scare everyone off.
Beaches on the other parts of the island (the north shore, etc.) are located in rural areas where there isn't much nightlife happening. With the exception of a few restaurants here and there, after 8 or 9 it's all over.
Downtown Honolulu, especially the chinatown district, has a lot more going on. It's obviously the place to be for Cinco de Mayo on Oahu, but also check out First Friday if you're in Oahu at the beginning of the month.
Some people say that it's dangerous to walk around the chinatown district at night. The numbers say that Honolulu ranks average in violent crime. Cityrating.com has Honolulu at about 33% under the national crime rate in 2010, and neighborhoodscount.com ranks it as safer than 38% of other U.S. cities. Personally I never had any feelings that I was in danger in Honolulu compared to when I lived in D.C., when I definitely felt weird if I was near the sketchier areas of town.
Lowrider style cars are popular on Oahu, and a bunch of guys showed up at the Cinco de Mayo block party to showcase their pimped out rides.
The party ended early around 10:15 when it started to rain, and the crowd slicked to the side of the road and lined up on the sidewalks. Everyone seemed to be bummed out by the wet weather. But the crowd was momentarily cheered up when a parade of lowrider cars cut through on the way out, hissing and bumping their hydraulics systems and bobbing up and down in the drizzly rain.
There was one enterprising guy walking around selling mustaches-on-sticks for a few dollars a pop. He probably made a nice profit off of that since it probably cost him next to nothing to make them. The fake 'staches and sombreros made the vibe of the party light-hearted and laid-back.
There were two girls who were dressed up in what looked like authentic Mexican garb. I should have asked what this kind of dress is called, because I can't find any info about this particular style online. (If anyone has any info about this please drop a comment.)
After I snapped this photo of the duo, other people caught on and started asking them to pose for photos with them.
Historical tidbits about Cinco de Mayo
I took a look into the history of Cinco de Mayo and found a few interesting facts.
1. It's an underdog story
In the 1860s, Mexico was completely broke from civil conflict and and war and could not pay its foreign debts. The Europeans weren't having that. In 1861 Spain, France and Britain showed up with warships and demanded payment. Mexico reached an agreement with everybody except France, who tried to use this event as an opportunity to invade. But they were stopped when a ragtag group of 4,500 Mexican soldiers threw the smack down on the 8,000 strong French army at La Batalla de Puebla. That was a huge victory for Mexico because at the time the French were believed to have had the best army in the world.
2. Cinco de Mayo isn't Mexican Independence day
La Batalla de Puebla was a huge, surprising victory for Mexico but it didn't hold the French back for long. In 1862 they came back and took Mexico City and ruled Mexico for four years after that.
Mexican-Americans place a greater importance on Cinco de Mayo than Mexicans do, though, because the leader at La Batalla de Puebla, General Ignacio Zaragosa, was born in Texas when it was still part of Mexico. Mexican Independence Day falls on September 16th-- the day that the Spanish were kicked out of Mexico in 1810.
3. Mexico's thrashing of the French impacted the American Civil War
Some historians think that the aggressive, expansionist leader of France at the time, Napoleon III, might have helped the Confederacy fight the Union if the Mexicans didn't stop them at La Batalla de Puebla.
Rain brought an early end to the festivities
The rain ended Cinco de Mayo a little early this year, but it also provided an opportunity for some interesting photos.