Cinco de Mayo takes on special meaning for local restaurant owners this year

NEW YORK (WABC) -- For many Americans, Cinco de Mayo is an excuse to party. While local restaurants like the idea of welcoming more patrons after last year's shutdown, the day has special meaning this year for owners of one local business.

Cinco de Mayo has a new meaning for Yesenia Verdejo -- for her it is about history, heritage and family.

It is the first time she is seeing her parents, the owners of Tulcingo Del Valle in Hell's Kitchen, since January of last year.

"It's been so difficult, them not being able to travel, me not being able to come, I'm used to working with them and helping them out and I felt like I couldn't help them during the pandemic," said Verdejo.

Verdejo made the emotional trip from Texas to help the family business get ready for its number one day in sales.

"All our sales are up more than 90 percent," said Verdejo.

Through community support, the 20-year-old business managed to keep all its employees and even hired more in the weeks leading up to Wednesday.

Preparing for the day meant stocking up on hard-to-get items.

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"Avocados, you have to be ready for the guacamole and the limes for the margaritas," Verdejo said.

The day is known to draw the party crowd, but how many people actually know why the 5th of May is celebrated?

"Cinco de Mayo commemorated the battle of Puebla where the Mexican army defeated the French on May 5th 1862," Lilia Fernandez, Rutgers Associate Professor of Latino and Caribbean Studies said.

Fernandez says the day was not universally celebrated in Mexico outside the southern region.



"It wasn't until the 1960s that Chicano activists revived the event and started to embrace it as a holiday to recognize the ethnic pride," Fernandez said.

That pride does not get any deeper for Verdejo whose family is from Puebla.

"We come from nothing, my parents came in 1984 and worked minimal paying jobs," Verdejo said.

Now their focus is on keeping the family legacy going for another 20 years.

ALSO READ: Rutgers professor dies of COVID-19 in India
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Dr. Rajenda Kapila, an infectious disease specialist and professor at Rutgers University who practiced medicine for 50 years in New Jersey, has died of COVID-19 in India.



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