PUTNAM COUNTY — As the weekend approaches, and we are finally approaching warmer weather, many people around the country are making plans to celebrate the holiday known as Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo has been frequently hailed as “Mexico’s Independance Day”. While the 5th of May does hold signifigance in the history of Mexico and their journey to independance, it acutally marks the victory of the Mexican army against the French army at the Battle of Puebla. The battle was thought to be one-sided, in favor of the French army. The perserverance of the Mexican army secured their success.

In the streets of Mexico you will find that Cinco de Mayo, for the most part, passes without much fanfare. For those of us who are Americans that have roots in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo has become a celebration of our Mexican-American heritage. In Hispanic communities across the country, there are feasts, drinks, music, family, and tradition.

As a child, my grandmother, Sofia, was someone that I absolutely revered. Whenever I reminisce about spending time at her house, a warmness comes over me that takes me back to that point in time. There are fluffy, warm tortillas on the stove by the dozen, a pot of pinto beans cooking on the back burner, and more than our fill of spanish rice waiting to be served.

“Bean tacos”, as we called them, were a fundamental food group when we were visiting Grandma. Raising 15 kids of her own, she became an expert on cooking Mexican food with the speed and quality of a professional. To this day, I have never had rice or a “bean taco” quite like hers.

When you went to Grandma’s, she would greet you with a “Hi mija!” (or “mijo” for the boys) and an embrace that enveloped you in her affection. Despite having a family the size of a small village, Grandma had a way of making all of us feel like the most important person in her life.

When Grandma passed in 2005, it was an enormous blow to our family. Anyone who has lost a matriarch such as her knows the struggle that comes after such a loss. It was never easy to get a family as large as ours together, but after she passed it seemed near impossible.

Despite our family growing apart, I find it fascinating how all of us carry a part of her, and consequently, a part of our Mexican-American culture with us. I see posts on social media of cousins near and far carrying on the traditions of making tamales with their family during the winter months, breaking the cascarón over each others heads during Easter, throwing Quinceañera’s to celebrate the coming of age of another young woman, and making spanish rice and “bean tacos” of their own for their families.

When we celebrate Cinco de Mayo, we are celebrating where we came from and the culture that makes us who we are. No matter how scarcely my family may see each other, we all still carry the gift of tradition that we recevied from my Grandma; the one that she received from her parents, and they received from those who came before them. This gift is what connects us now. This gift is what we will all pass on to our own children, and because of that, the essence of my Grandmother can live on forever.