Mayo 5 & Bike2Work

May 5, 2011

Happy Cinco de Mayo. That’s Spanish for "fifth of May" if you didn’t already know … like, if you’ve been living under a rock somewhere your entire life. Cinco de Mayo is all about drinking beer and consuming guacamole, right? “Stay thirsty, my friends.” That kind of stuff? Falso.

Actually, today celebrates the Mexican army's surprising victory over the French military at the Battle of Puebla, Mexico on May 5, 1862 (it’s NOT Mexican Independence Day, as it is sometimes mistaken for). Yes, the French were in Mexico big time for a while. Ever heard of Maximilian I of Mexico? Interesting times. Anyway, the real Mexican independence from Spain actually took place in September 1821.

What does this have to do with bike commuting? Well, Spain was in California from 1769 until 1821 when Mexican forces told Spain to scram. 1821 to 1846  then became the Mexican period in California. This all means that you can ride your bike along a path of history. The most obvious is cruising through the Presidio of San Francisco, first established in 1776 as the northernmost outpost of their western empire in North America. Archeologists are still finding clues to the early days of the Presidio. It was eventually taken over by Mexico, and then the U.S. Army in 1846.

This section of San Francisco was so wind and sand swept back then that it made for a harsh existence. That is one reason why Mission Dolores was built “inland” in one of SF’s warmest neighborhoods in 1776. When the U.S. Army took over the Presidio, they eventually planted thousands of trees to block the wind and create an entirely new habitat.

So, happy Cinco de Mayo. Go ahead and do the beers and guac, but also let them remind you of the deep and rich Spanish and Mexican history under your bike tires.


Bike to Work Day Thursday May 12

Check out the details with your local bike support group. Or go to the website of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition  and the Marin County Bicycle Coalition. It really is a lot of fun, and the aid stations have piles of great giveaways and food.

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