You know you are in for one hell of a parade when you see a giant fort roll slowly by, bellowing smoke from explosions and throwing the bodies of soldiers and horses into the air.
Cinco de Mayo is a big deal – in Puebla
Cinco de Mayo is the anniversary of a surprising Mexican victory over a superior French army in 1862. It is becoming a major celebration in the USA but it isn’t actually a huge deal in most of Mexico, apart from in the city of Puebla, where the battle took place.
May 5 also happens to be my wife’s birthday. Since we were relatively nearby (in Mexico City) we thought it would be a fun birthday treat to go see the festivities in Puebla.
We took an ADO bus for 2.5 hours from TAPO station and arrived on the night of the 4th, staying at a very nice but expensive downtown hotel, Casa Reyna (we managed to get a substantial discount by booking online).
Puebla is a charming city, with thousands of churches and beautiful architecture everywhere. It’s easy to get around by foot, since the streets are mostly grid lines, and points of interest are all within relative walking distance to downtown. Although the city has about three million people in it, it has a relaxed vibe.
When we wanted to go farther, or visit the outskirts, we just called up an Uber, which is a convenient and cheap way to travel in Mexico.
The food in Puebla is amazing – great places to eat everywhere, in the streets or in restaurants – which we found to be high quality, tasty, well presented, and very inexpensive.
We only spent a couple of days in Puebla but would love to go back and get to know it better. I know what day we will return on!
Cinco de Mayo Parade, Hollywood-style
Puebla’s Cinco de Mayo parade is so action-packed, it looks like something famed director George Miller might have made for his Mad Max: Fury Road movie.
On the morning of May 5 we waited on the Cinco de Mayo street with hundreds of excited Pueblans for the show to start. At 10:30 am the army, marines, and navy started to roll by – and at first this had the look of an impressive but still fairly standard parade.
Then a Hollywood action movie broke out.
Someone obviously thought it would be a good idea to recreate key scenes from the battle, on parade floats. And they were given a big budget. And they had a practical special effects team that can do anything.
So our jaws dropped as the parade rolled by.
- Soldiers with giant eagles on their arms? Check.
- Tanks and rocket launchers? Lots of those!
- High school marching bands – natch.
- Vaqueros (Mexican cowboys) and ladies riding side-saddle in 19th century costumes? Got that covered.
- Aztec warriors in flowing headdresses? Cool!
- Baroque-era dancers twirling on a float with a grand piano, while a lady portraying a “bronze statue” has melting goo running down her arms in the heat? Sure, why the heck not?
- Church spires that rotate while “saints” inside them wave to the crowd? A must!
And then, the crazy battle scenes…
Here’s a video of the French trying to attack one of Puebla’s forts:
And when the French soldiers lose, and are thrown into the air by an explosion, the victorious Mexican soldiers start to cheer.
The parade organizers probably decided that confining themselves to just one battle was too artistically limiting. So, there was another parade float of a two-story house with its walls cut out. Inside it, revolutionaries fought tooth and nail against the Federales in a scene from the Mexican Revolution.
After ninety minutes of military convoys, castles and houses, cavalry, marching student bands, Aztec dancers, and bicyclists, the parade finished, leaving us happy and amazed.
Top that next year, Puebla!