Five Reasons Cinco de Mayo Rocks
There’s no better way to open a month than a celebration. Thankfully, May’s got us covered with its Mexican extravaganza, Cinco de Mayo. Now even if you don’t know why the date is celebrated, don’t have any Mexican lineage, or just sound extra dorky trying to pronounce Cinco de Mayo, there’s nothing stopping people from celebrating a culture that’s presented a lot to the world. Usually a lot of people might even celebrate the whole weekend of Cinco de Mayo, getting the good vibes going right before summer hits. There’s plenty to do outside of the stereotypical piñatas and traditional food, so here we’re gonna take a look at five different pop culture contributions you can enjoy to get in the mood for the fiesta, throw on in the background, or just consider for the future. Whether it’s watching a director’s films, listening to some music, reading a book, or playing a game, these are appropriate of a celebratory occasion.
Uno/ The Book of Life
Probably one of the most underrated films of all of 2014, The Book of Life brought something different to the animation spectrum. The art style alone makes this film worth watching, evoking Mexican artists of yesteryear and bringing in that sort of “Dia de Muertos” imagery into the animated world. Made by Jorge R. Gutierrez, the guy behind that equally underrated cartoon El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, the movie revolves around a love triangle and being caught between life and death. If that sounds a little deep for a kids’ cartoon, it is, but the film’s great at exploring these complex values in ways that are funny, heartfelt, and clever. If you’re celebrating the day with the whole family, then The Book of Life is perfect.
Dos/ Book: Down the Rabbit Hole
I’m going to preface this by saying I’m no authority on books. I enjoy a solid story here and there, but I’m far from you’d call an avid book reader; destroying pages left and right. That said, I know people would kill for a good read and I think I may have found you one here in Juan Pablo Vilallobos “Down the Rabbit Hole.” Compared favorably to the book “Room,” which has been adapted into an award-winning movie, this 2011 story follows the perspective a young boy. The kid, however, is the son of a Mexican drug lord. Sort of fitting into “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” style, this story follows someone of innocence in a world of batshit-craziness and tragedy. Not quite as depressing as Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Down the Rabbit Hole actually provides a bit of dark characterization and humor in what would otherwise be a freaking bleak situation. Probably not a celebration of Mexico’s “honorable” culture, this book by a Mexican son gives a pretty awesome glimpse into a dark world from a unique perspective. A rather short read, give your fifth of the fifth some literature to take in.
Tres/ Director: Guillermo del Toro
Rather than just look at a single movie, let’s dive into one of Mexico’s finest exports, our favorite Guillermo del Toro. Master of all things fantasy, this younger, Mexican, George R.R. Martin has been killing it for years, releasing new movies with exotic ideas at every turn. It’s hard to find a filmmaker that’s able to diversify their ideas so successfully, but del Toro has been exceeding expectations all the time. Simply glossing over some of his work, you got amazing comic book movies in the two Hellboy films and Blade II, giant robots beating the ever-living crap out of giant monsters in Pacific Rim, and possibly one of the best pure fantasy films of the modern generation in Pan’s Labyrinth. This might not be so much a celebration of Mexican culture as much as celebration of the countries’ great artists. Del Toro is one of many, but if you’re looking to marathon movies from a Mexican maverick, then he’s your guy.
Quatro/ Music: Abraxas by Santana
We’ve been talking a lot about newer movies and media, but for music let’s enjoy a classic. Yeah, music is totally subjective; probably the hardest thing to pin down for a wide audience, but it’s pretty hard to go wrong with a guy like Santana. The badass with the bandana has been going strong for decades, covering pretty much any genre you can think of, but right now we’re going to just look at one thing, Abraxas. No, not the deity, not beer, and definitely not the god-awful movie. We’re talking about the album that put the Mexican guitarist on the map, killing it with some of his most widely known songs in “Black Magic Woman” and “Oye Como Va.” The album features a lot of different genres already and just sort of get’s the juices flowing whether you’re relaxing or jamming. It’s an awesome way to celebrate a great Mexican artist, as well as rock music’s roots in the country. Great little soundtrack for a celebration or if you’re just chilling out on this holiday.
Cinco/Video Game: Guacamelee!
Just in case you thought there wasn’t a video game to check out for this most excellent Mexican holiday, your friends at DrinkBox Studios got you covered with their game Guacamelee! (or Guacamelee!: Super Turbo Championship Edition if you’re nasty). A fantastic voyage into Mexican culture, this 2013 game follows two luchadors through a Metroidvania-style adventure, coming back from the dead and destroying fiends trying to kidnap El Presidente’s daughter. Y’know, standard stuff. The game’s art style, much like The Book of Life, pays homage to Mexican artistry, looking totally unique in the video game market. With quick paced action and a pretty damn funny script working for it, Guacamelee is fun for pretty much anyone who likes games of its style. It is two players, and is available on Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. If you plan on playing games as part of your holiday, screw that table-flip causing Monopoly and try out Guacamelee! for something different.