By Harry Kane and Linjing Cheng
Partygoers sporting sombreros, ponchos, and other Mexican regalia went “loco” over tacos, ice cream, and margaritas during the Taza Chocolate Factory Store’s Cinco de Mayo festival on May 5.
The chocolate factory hosted the block party with plenty of yummy quality cacao to go around. And outside, there were food trucks, and many more merchants stationed to fill the empty stomachs of patrons. The event began around 1 p.m. and lasted until the food and drink ran out.
The origins of the traditional holiday date back to the mid 19th century when Mexicans won the Battle of Puebla during the French occupation. Mexicans in the State of Puebla commemorate the battle by celebrating the Cinco de Mayo festival. But the holiday has been transformed into an American celebration of Mexican culture and heavy drinking.
In Somerville the tradition takes on a new form, with a combination of chocolate, Mexican food, ice cream and electro-infused salsa music. It wasn’t quite like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but there were some magnificent moments of delight from the patrons who came that sunny afternoon.
At the party, Alexei Beratis, an employee of Inspired Beverage Inc., served samples of smoky margaritas to thirsty consumers. “The El Buhu Mezcal used,” said Beratis, “is produced in the traditional style of Mezcal by smoking the agave prior to fermentation.”
Joan Ellis and Sarah Bardo drank smoky margaritas and considered buying chocolaty delights, which were looking more and more appealing by the minute. Ellis and Bardo had been on the mailing list, and after learning of the event were more than willing to make the trip from Andover to take part in the festivities. “After a winter indoors, it’s good to be outdoors,” exclaimed Ellis, over the loud music.
For many, the music, food and drink were a relief from the long winter. Jessica Ching, who was originally from Southern California, had been looking forward to the tequila and Mexican food. “I knew coming here, there is a huge Latin American population or presence, so I was excited,” she said. Back in California, Ching added, the Cinco de Mayo festivals were much larger, but she was enjoying this one just fine.
Chef Brian Sway from the Winter Hill neighborhood of Somerville was drinking a black chocolate stout beer developed by the Brooklyn Brewery. He had recently been at the chocolate factory to buy toasted cocoa nibs to garnish one of his specialty shrimp dishes that he serves out of a food truck, aptly named Cod Squad after the seafood dishes. Sway was back for some more chocolate.
Hector Trejo, a Mexican immigrant who lives in the area, said the music was more like South American than Mexican, but he still enjoyed it. “We always celebrate this day in Mexico,” he recalled. Trejo mentioned, however, that in Mexico, Mariachi music would be heard instead of the synthesized modern beat that played at the chocolate factory.
And the food, according to Trejo, is “different but also tasty.” The ingredients are done in the “American way,” he added. And he noted the tortillas are flour instead of corn.
But for most Somerville residents and attendees, the party was about socializing, eating, drinking and looking silly in Mexican clothing. It didn’t matter that the event wasn’t entirely authentic; rather it was the thought that counted. And for fun, some socialites wore stick-on mustaches, a Cinco de Mayo tradition that seems to be growing in Somerville.