One hundred thirty-eight years ago Friday, Benito Juárez and his Mexican army routed Napoleon III's forces at the Battle of Puebla. The rest of that story is history; the important date is celebrated as the cultural holiday Cinco de Mayoby both Mexicans and Chicanos -- and by gringos looking for any excuse to hoist a cerveza.
El Vez, aka the Mexican Elvis, brings his comic and subversive act to town, running Spanglish-peppered border commentary and Mexican history lessons through covers of the King and others. Live shows are Vegas-worthy; El Vez makes a dozen costume changes while his band coaxes tender strains from the Elvettes (Priscilita, Gladysita, Lisa Maria, and Que Linda Thompson). The show starts at 9 p.m. Friday at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $12-14; call 885-0750.
Precita Eyes hosts a Cinco de Mayo Open House Party to kick off Mural Awareness Month. Muralist Jose Meza Velasquez will show slides of his work while the Fisherman offers grooves. The party lasts from 8 p.m. to midnight on Friday at Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, 2981 24th St. (near Harrison), S.F. Admission is free; call 285-2287.
Circo de Mayo serves up a Tijuana sideshow, with sword swallowers, snake dancers, a human contortionist, and other borderland carnival spectacles. The Friday event lasts from 8 p.m. to midnight at Balazo/Mission Badlands Gallery, 2811 Mission (at 24th Street), S.F. Admission is $3; call 920-0896.
Saturday's Cinco de Mayo Salsa Dance Party for Women brings out the 11-piece Dulce Mambo to inspire patio dancing in a benefit for breast cancer research and awareness. The party starts at 4 p.m. at El Rio, 3158 Mission (at Cesar Chavez), S.F. Admission is $40; call 820-7449.
Cinco de Mayo in the Barriooffers a report on political prisoners and missing persons in Oaxaca, Mexico, music from Jesús Magaña, a theatrical performance from Grupo Chale, and poetry from Alejandro Stuart. The event begins at 8 p.m. Saturday at Peña del Sur, 2870A 22nd St. (at Harrison), S.F. Admission is $5; call 550-1101.
Cinco de Mayo San Francisco takes place Sunday with a parade that begins at 10 a.m. at 24th Street and Bryant, runs down 24th to Mission, then up Mission to 20th Street. From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., the Cinco de Mayo Festival takes place in Civic Center Plaza. Among the draws, a lowrider car show, food, crafts booths, and music from Mariachi Los Cachorros, Banda Joven, Orquesta Borrequin, and many others. The parade is free; the festival free-$5; call 826-1401 for details.