Capturing Cinco de Mayo on Instagram

To view more photos and videos from the Cinco de Mayo celebrations explore the Centro Histórico de la Ciudad de Puebla and Plaza Olvera location pages and browse the #cincodemayo hashtag.

On the fifth of May, or el cinco de Mayo, Mexican communities celebrate their heritage. Though Cinco de Mayo as it has come to be known is celebrated primarily by Mexican-American communities in the United States, the holiday’s roots begin with the 1862 Battle of Puebla in Puebla, Mexico. In the wake of a series of wars throughout the mid-1800s, the French army marched on Veracruz, sending the Mexican president and government into retreat. At the small city of Puebla, however, Mexican resistance defeated the French army despite being heavily outnumbered. Though not a national holiday in Mexico, the town of Puebla marks the day as an official holiday and celebrates with parades and festivities. Drawing on the bolstered morale and pride from the victory, Mexican-Americans in the western United States first adopted Cinco de Mayo as a holiday in the 1860s. Today, Cinco de Mayo stands as an important celebration of cultural heritage and is celebrated with festivals and performances of traditional mariachi and baile folklórico in cities with large Mexican-American communities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Houston.

Here is the Mariachi Plaza statue of Lucha Reyes as she was born on May 23, 1906 in Guadalajara, Mexico. Lucha Reyes, la Reina de los Mariachis, toured Los Angeles in 1920 where she received critical acclaim. She lived in Los Angeles until 1924 when she returned to Mexico but came back again in 1927 hoping to make a career in the movies. Among serious mariachi students, she is considered the most authentic performer of the Mexican cancion. More information is available at BBC Music and the National Association for Music Education (scroll). Photo comes from Flickr user wehardy.


Here is a picture of the money that Jack gave me at the Mariachi Plaza station secret show.  As it says in big bold red letters, the money is FAKE MOTION PICTURE MONEY that can not be used for any value.

Again.  It is FAKE FAKE FAKE.  I have a story coming up soon about the whole experience.  

I think it was a very funny gesture.  It was a funny, clever prank.  I also think it is canny that the stack of fake money is “worth” $30,000, knowing that Jack’s lucky number is three.

I’m very lucky.  Jack is one of my favorite musicians ever, and I would have never traded the experience for anything more.

Jack White, Mariachi Plaza, Los Angeles

A few weekends ago I traveled down to LA for a quick two day escape. While downtown taking pictures of my friend Grace I mentioned I was about to start a photo project on mariachi bands. When we were done shooting she sent me to Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights—maybe I could find some interesting scenes to start my project with? I showed up and surely enough there was a mariachi band playing but there was also a certain buzz in the air and a curious bright yellow Third Man Records truck parked nearby. Clueless and confused, I asked one of the people who had gathered around the truck what was going on. “Oh, Jack White is about to play a surprise set here in fifteen minutes.”

Jack White gave me "$30,000"

The heat hit me as I stepped out of my car in a tiny parking lot next to a mom and pop Mexican restaurant.  I slammed my door behind me and booked it to the Boyle Heights Mariachi Station where the Third Man Records Rollin’ Record Truck parked its lemon yellow wheels. 


Running in my little polka dot dress didn’t seem like a good idea, but once I heard mariachi music coming from a stage area, my pace quickened to that of a measly jogger.  I thanked myself for putting on shorts under my skirt. 


I made it to the front-left of the stage, next to a staircase that led to Carla Azar’s, who is Jack White’s drummer in his female supporting group The Peacocks, silver drum kit.  I looked to the right and saw a beat up white electric bass guitar next to a steel guitar that laid on top of a fold out chair.  In front of the chair, a pale blue Gretsch guitar stood tall in its stand next to an electric keyboard.  A couple microphones were scattered on the stage, one in the front center and one between the steel guitar and keyboard.


I clapped and my mouth beamed a huge smile while the mariachi band hopped and twisted to their music, knowing that one of the biggest rock stars of the millennium was going to soon grace this concrete stage.  I peered over to the right of the stage, looking for roadies or any signs of a van that might be rolling up.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see a middle aged guy in sunglasses start to pump his fists and scream in my direction.  I quickly turn to my left and see a single file line of ladies, each wearing their own periwinkle and light blue shaded dress, except for Jack’s backup singer, Ruby Amnfu, who wore a white sun dress. 


Jack White was in the middle of the line, dressed in a dark button up shirt with muted green trousers that had a green and grey plaid pattern.  I guess nobody told him that it was going to be 97 degrees on that Friday afternoon.  His worn-out white shoes scuffed along the sidewalk.  The fedora on his head protected his pale ghost-like skin from the LA sun. 


My heart raced, my hands clasped together and my mouth grew a huge smile when we locked glances for a split second.  As I clapped and cheered, Mr. White walked passed me and shoved a huge wad of money into my hands.  Money.  Fake money.  $30,000 worth, to be exact.  No, it could not be used for face value.  Yes, it was motion picture money.  Nevertheless, my hand trembled up and down as attendees gasped and snapped photos of the thing.  They probably thought it was real too.  Three stacks of one hundred dollar bills, divided into $10,000 bundles that were bound up in clear moving tape and plastic weighed my hand down as I stared at it in confusion.  What was I supposed to do with it?  Was I supposed to be part of the show?  Was I supposed to “make it rain?”  So many questions popped into my red-haired head that before I knew it, Jack and The Peacocks stampeded into the first song of the set, “Sixteen Saltines.”

 (Photo credit: Jo McCaughey)

I hastily put the fake money into my green beaded purse and began to dance like a fool.  Jack kept his electric guitar strapped on for the next song, “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground.”  I always thought it would be a bit off to see a White Stripes song being played by a six-piece backing band, but it evolved into something new with the support of the girls.  It sounded so full.  The steel guitar and keyboards added new life to what was once a stripped down song.


(Photo credit: Jo McCaughey)

After the first two songs, Jack traded his pale blue for the acoustic “Claudette Colbert” Gretsch.  He started in on “Love Interuption,” the first single of his debut solo record, “Blunderbuss.”  Amanfu sweetly crooned into her microphone while shaking her tambourine.  When White joined in, he would skip over to her microphone, sharing it with her while they sang in unison.


(Photo credit: Jo McCaughey)

Their last song was “Hotel Yorba,” which is always a fun one.  It got the crowd riled up and clapping hands when Jack sang the familiar lyrics.  The classic ended the show on good terms. 


The show was quick and to the point.  Jack and the girls tore it up and gave the audience a moment of time they would never forget.  After the last song, the band left the stage and filed into the sleek black van that corralled them to the location.  I stood in front of the van, my body shaking, and managed to wave goodbye like a complete unashamed goob.


After some time, I got the nerve to ask the red-headed roadie what I should exactly do with the money.

“Hi, excuse me!” 


She turned around and smiled politely, walking to the edge of the stage to listen to my silly question.

“Um. Yes.  Before the show, Jack gave me this,” as I pulled the stack of money out, her eyes widened, then shrank after I confirmed that it was fake.


“I really am not sure what to do with this.  Should I keep it?” Confusion attacked my thought process, and I really am not sure why I asked her what to do with the stage prop.


As she laughed, she pulled out a phone from her back pocket.  She turned her back towards me and walked to the other side of the stage.  I’m assuming she was explaining the situation to someone, who I still am unsure of.  She walked up to me again, still on the phone and laughing.


“Yeah?  Ok, yes.  Mhhmm.  Sounds good.  Bye.”


The conversation ended and she put her phone in her pocket.


“It’s a gift from Jack to you.” 


(Photo credit: Angie Amy)