The short answer – not a big deal at all.

Which explains why yesterday, when I asked América, who was giving me an awesome manicure, what she was doing for Cinco de Mayo, she looked a little mystified and asked, ‘que?’

Translation – ‘what?’

It turns out that back in the 1980’s beer companies in the US zeroed in on Cinco de Mayo as a way to celebrate Mexican-American culture – and sell a lot of beer! Apparently beer sales on par with Super Bowl. It’s kind of like the relationship between Santa Claus and Coca Cola. The wondrous impact of good marketing campaigns on popular culture.

So it is a big deal in the US (and pretty popular in Canada) but hardly even remarked on here in Puerto Vallarta. And I didn’t just take América’s word for it. A little googling and even checking out the activities section in the local newspaper – I don’t see anything.

Walking around today – so far nothing seems different. Everything is open. No obvious celebrations. Except for the two gentleman standing on the sidewalk this morning at 9:45 sipping Corona’s. Pretty sure it had nothing to do with long ago military victories…

Cinco de Mayo is not a totally made up thing just to sell beer and tequila in the States. There was a legit battle in Pueblo in in the 1860’s where the Mexicans ousted the second French Empire. I had no idea there was any French Empire in Mexico (let alone a second one). And kids do get the day off school. But it’s nothing like the big celebrations that take place for the actual Mexican Independence day on September 16.

Back to América… (and my manicure)

She has a little manicure table set up inside one of the doorways opening onto the street I walk down each day to get to the market. Whenever I walk by she and her clients are always having such a good time, laughing and chatting.

So a few days ago I stopped and made an apointment. Very old school. As in I said, ‘Can I come at 5:30 on Thursday afternoon?’ and she said ‘Sure.’ No booking app required.

América was the most efficient manicurist I have ever experienced. She spoke lots of English and when she wasn’t chatting, she would spontaneously burst into song. I think she knew everyone that walked by and greeted them by name – including some of the local dogs. (There are very few leashes in Puerto Vallarta.) Her friends would pop in and they would talk a mile a minute for a few minutes. It was strangely relaxing to just let the Spanish wash over me.

My only minor concern was the total lack of sterilization of the tools she was using. Especially when one of América’s friends came in, carrying a bag from a pharmacy, and the only word I understood, in their musical exchange, was ‘antibiotic’ and she gestured to her big toe a lot. All of her other toes were beautifully polished but the big toe wasn’t – it looked red and angry. But she herself didn’t seem angry at all – not like she was coming in to yell at América, ‘Your unsterilized tools gave me a terrible raging infection!’. So I am going to go on the assumption that any infection is unrelated to her pedicure.

My favorite manicure to get is a gel polish with a French tip. Since I spent the first 50 years of my life relentlessly biting my nails down as aggressively as possible – I feel pretty new to the manicure scene. Well over half the manicures I have ever had have been in places where I don’t speak the language. What I really like is slightly rounded nails with a very thin white tip. But mostly I end up getting what the manicurist feels like giving me because it is so hard to communicate.

América was awesome at asking the right questions. For the white line, I tried to explain that I wanted it as thin as possible but she just looked at me a little mystified. I was about to shrug and let her do her thing when her face suddenly lit up. ‘You mean slender – like me,’ she giggled. ‘Si, si! I said.

She did the first nail and asked me to look at it. The line was very thin but straight across and not quite what I wanted. ‘Maybe more curved?’ I said in an apologetic tone (you can’t take the Canadian out of me). Once again América got what I meant. ‘Like a smile,’ she clarified. Exactly!

When América got down to business doing the delicate work of the white tip she would put on her glasses which were missing one arm. She’s just tuck them really firmly behind the one ear and periodically shuffle them back up her nose.

on May 6th…

Rob and I had a really nice evening out last night. Officially no sign of any Cinco de Mayo celebration – not even fireworks. And in our experience, almost every day someone finds a reason to set off fireworks 🙂


Now when I walk down the street and pass América’s little nook – we call out ‘Hola’s’ and exchange friendly waves. I feel like such a part of our neighbourhood local scene 🙂