Just a few blocks from the Marina, the locals favorite Mexican restaurant Baja Cantina transformed into a giant party spot at the occasion of Cinco de Mayo last Thursday night.

Baja Cantina is popular for celebrating the Mexican holiday with its all-week festivities featuring flamenco musicians, Don Julio Tequila tasting, and live performance of Latin group Sun and Soul to animate the 'big day', May 5.

"We have the same lined-up for the past thirty years and we get all walks-in life, from all-timers to party animals," said General Manager Will Marquis.

The restaurant had however kept its usual agenda with Lobster night on Tuesdays, and Surf night on Wednesdays, so that the habitual clientele could still enjoy their routine visit, giving the restaurant the tranquil ambiance of a regular week.

"Tonight is very slow because everybody is saving up their energy for the big party on Thursday night," said waitress Beth Nelson on Tuesday night. "It gets crazy, but the crowd is not as desirable."

Dino Alba, a Marina del Ray local who frequents Baja Cantina almost on a daily basis, says he would never come for Cinco de Mayo. "It's an immature day, all the idiots come out. And they raise the prices."

Cinco de Mayo, which celebrates the 1862 Mexico's victory over the French Army, has truly become an emblem of fiesta for Southern Californians.
The admission cover charge on Thursday night was $10, and the weather was not at its best, but it did not discourage anyone waiting in the interminable line.

"I love it! The people, the ambiance, the drinks, the cute boys!" said the young and hip Christina Yamakawa. "It's a perfect place for Cinco de Mayo."

Some were there for business, like the real estate broker Bruce Funstone, who distributed business cards around. "I am here to meet people, but I am also here to have fun," said Funstone.
" It's nice to see all those people who have different religions and ethnicities getting along so well. Everybody is coming together under the unity of Cinco de Mayo."

Nested in a corner of the parking lot was a stand of characters' drawings by Haiku Angelz. For the festival, Angelz, who owns an art center, drew creative portraits for the clientele and only accepted tips. While she admits that people were more generous with bartenders, she said she enjoyed the crowd.
"I grew up in the area and tonight I saw people I hadn't seen for 15 years!" said Angelz. "It was a Venice High reunion."

For the occasion, the parking lot became a playground featuring an outdoor bar and a concert stage for Sun and Soul who played all afternoon and evening. But people were too busy to pay attention to the music, and more interested in meeting and joking with each other with a margarita at hand.

The security, whether visible or under-cover, was omnipresent throughout the evening, in order to prevent any incidents due to excessive Tequila drinking.

Even though the restaurant's two large patios were far from being packed, the Fire Marshall insisted that the place had reached its full capacity and therefore greatly restrained its admission. As a result, many people waited in vain for hours in the line just to be told they could not get in.

"We need walking place for service and for people to freely move. People get irritable and aggressive when it gets too crowded, especially if they have been drinking," said one of the evening security guard, Christopher Billot.

The lucky crowd inside Baja Cantina was definitely in good hands with the non-profit organization Scooter Patrol giving free rides home to those who had been celebrating too much.

Whether on business or there just for plain fun, everyone agreed that the Mexican hot spot Baja Cantina has mastered the art of celebrating Cinco de Mayo, with its attractive clientele, groovy music and of course, tasty margarita.