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Cinco de Mayo, US Style 

America has been called the great melting pot. We've become the country we are partly because of the cultural diversity of those who call themselves Americans. Of course, being the country that we are, we don't allow this diversity thing to go too far. We're most comfortable when all our various ethnic groups are willing to Americanize themselves for mass consumption, orchestrated by corporate mass marketing whitewashers.

Such it is with cultural holidays. Coming up this week is Cinco de Mayo. Most Americans view it as Mexican Independence Day (which is actually September 16) when in fact it commemorates the victory of Mexico over the French army at The Battle Of Puebla in 1862. It's primarily a regional holiday celebrated throughout the Mexican state of Puebla, but it is also observed in other parts of the country with fiestas of food, music, and beverage. In America, we use it as an opportunity to swill Americanized cerveza until we think popping jalapeno peppers down our throats at radio station-sponsored contests is a good idea.

Here then are some suggestions to help you celebrate Cinco de Mayo like a good red, whitewashed, and blue-blooded American.

Tequiza: In theory, this should be a great idea. Mix together beer and tequila, two divinely inspired beverages, and you should have ambrosia. In fact, there is no tequila in Tequiza, only agave flavoring. The agave flavoring is overwhelmed by what is described as a twist of lime, but in actuality is a full strangulation.

Pros: It contains alcohol.

Cons: Syrupy and sweet, it is the Fruit Loops of beer. To beer lovers, it will taste too much like a wine cooler. To wine cooler lovers, it will taste too much like beer. To most everyone, it will taste like it was brewed inside one of Anheuser-Busch's Clydesdales -- with a twist of lime.

Price: About $5.89 a six-pack.

Fun Facts to Know and Tell: Tequiza is brewed by Anheuser-Busch which is the largest brewer in the world. The Budweiser Lizards are named Frank and Louie. Jennifer the Bud Girl used to visit the Budweiser Lounge on WEND-FM. I miss them.

Taco Bell: Let's preface this by pointing out that from 1998 until July 2000, the "spokesman" for Taco Bell was a Chihuahua with a fake Mexican accent. He was unceremoniously dropped despite being enormously popular, partly because corporate marketing geeks deemed him too "ethnic" to be a representative for the fast food chain, and was thus blamed for its poor sales. The sales numbers, of course, had nothing to do with the fact that the food at Taco Bell looks and tastes like somebody dropped a chalupa in it.

Pros: Inexpensive when taste isn't a major factor. Open late. Adding the Hot Border Sauce helps. By and large, non-toxic.

Cons: Even the "beef" is delivered pre-cooked in a plastic bag, then re-heated in boiling water. Your dining experience is dependent upon the mood swing of an underpaid teenager slinging together pre-chopped, pre-cooked fallout shelter grade ingredients.

Price: Chalupa --- $1.39, Gordita --- $1.19.

Fun Facts to Know and Tell: The Gordita is soft, sweet-ish flat bread wrapped around what is the standard fill of lettuce, tomato, pseudo-cheese, sour cream-esque stuff, and beef-like material. A Chalupa is similar except the flat bread is deep fried. In Mexico, both these products are only eaten by a select segment of the population known as "El Loco Gringo."

Petro Express Burrito: The burrito is an accepted symbol of Mexican food, and the automobile (and by extension the gas station) is likewise a symbol of America. What better symbol of Mexican American synthesis than a burrito purchased at a gasoline convenience store? The Petro Express I visited carried breakfast, beef, chicken, and steak with jalapeno Don Miguel brand burritos. Each of these burritos also contained bean, onion, and tomato. I went with the steak and jalapeno. According to the label, my burrito contained 900mg of salt (or 38 percent the adult daily requirement). That being the case, I figured the best way to eat it would be to take a bite, do a shot of tequila, then suck on a wedge of lemon.

Pros: Maybe it's because I tried this after my Taco Bell experience, but the Don Miguel burrito was surprisingly good. It had recognizable chunks of steak in it, the tortilla wrap was tasty with a good texture, and the jalapenos left a pleasant warm afterglow.

Cons: Realizing that you're buying your meals at a service station. Best case, there is an impeding lifestyle intervention looming. Worst case, you will soon be a roommate of Daryl Strawberry under a highway overpass, using this newspaper as a blanket.

Price: $1.89.

Fun Facts to Know and Tell: When visiting Springfield, you can buy a microwave burrito from Apu Nahasapeemapetilon at the Kwik-E-Mart. Though it no longer has gas pumps, it once did for a short period of time. *

You can e-mail Gene Lazo at

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