Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

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 Photo courtesy of MGN

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Cinco de Mayo, celebrated every May 5th, is actually more popular in the United States than it is in Mexico. To most Mexicans, it is just another day.

In America, the popular Mexican holiday celebrates Mexican-American culture, often with Mexican food and margaritas, however, many Americans,  have some serious misconceptions about its origins and meaning.

Luis Zamora-Recillas, the owner of El Nevado de Toluca Mexican restaurant located at 510 St. Joe St. in Rapid City, shares what the holiday represents in Mexico, the Battle of Puebla and how it is celebrated.

Both of Zamora-Recillas’ parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico. His father was born in the Michoacan region of Mexico and his mother in Toluca, Mexico. They left Mexico because they found it hard to make a decent living there.

“My parents didn’t know English when they came to the United States. It was really hard for them to find a job and get me and my little sister in school, but they pushed through, watched the news and read to learn English,” said Zamora-Recillas who was born in Chicago, Ill.

Zamora-Recillas opened El Nevado de Toluca Mexican restaurant five months ago because it was a dream of his parents who have worked in the restaurant business for 25 years. The authentic cuisine reflects both areas of the country.

“There’s a big difference in the culture and in the food from the two different areas,” said Zamora-Recillas.

The Michoacan region of Mexico is on the Pacific coast and the name means the place of fisherman. The Mexican state played a major role in the Mexican War of Independence when around 1810, the priest and revolutionary Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla seized the Michoacan capital of Morelia. He was appointed governor and declared the end of slavery. Mexico’s Independence Day, called El Grito de Independencia, is celebrated September 15-16, each year in tribute to the battle cry that launched the rebellion against the Spaniards. The state is also known for the Paricutin volcano, which is one of the seven wonders of the world, avocados, and elaborate Day of the Dead celebrations each November 1-2.

Toluca is the state capital of the state of Mexico and the countries fifth largest city.  The urban area is known for its educational centers, landmarks, colonial architecture and museums.  The city sits at the base of the Nevado de Toluca volcano that Zamora-Redillas’ restaurant is named for. According to the Smithsonian Institution, the volcano that is now inactive last erupted 3,300 years ago. The area around it is a national park with 18 registered archeological sites. Indigenous Aztecs held ceremonies and made sacrifices near the volcano and it’s two creator lakes at the floor of its basin. Archeological excavations by the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia have found artifacts there dating back to the Epi-Classic period 650-900 AD.

While Cinco de Mayo is celebrated throughout the United States, its largest celebrations are in California.

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