Educate yourself to avoid cultural appropriation
Today is Cinco de Mayo.
Contrary to popular belief, the day is not to celebrate Mexican independence. Mexico’s Independence Day falls on Sept. 16; Cinco de Mayo is meant to commemorate the victory of the Mexican battalion against the French army in a battle in 1862 near the city of Puebla in central Mexico.
Also contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not meant for college students to dress up in sombreros and faux mustaches while downing seven margaritas and calling it a “celebration of culture.” That’s called being culturally insensitive and racist.
Cultural appropriation is not equal to cultural celebration. Putting on a serape while taking tequila shots with your friends does not suddenly mean you’re well-versed in Chicanx/Latinx culture and history. The way to do that is to educate yourself, acknowledge the offensive stereotypes you may have internalized and understand why they are problematic.
Educating yourself involves understanding that while large Cinco de Mayo celebrations are held in some parts of Mexico, particularly around the state of Puebla, the day is not a national Mexican holiday and is actually sparsely celebrated in the country.
Another way to educate yourself is to utilize the many resources provided by UC Davis. As a university set to become a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) by fall 2018, UC Davis offers a variety of ways for students to familiarize themselves with Chicanx/Latinx culture, from an array of Chicano studies courses to programs and events hosted by the Cross Cultural Center (CCC), like the La Raza Cultural Days held last week.
Despite its future as an HSI, UC Davis is not immune to culturally insensitive incidences. In 2014, ASUCD Coffee House employees (CoHo) rightfully came under fire for organizing an off-campus event titled “Cinco de Drinko Sloshball.” If the party’s name wasn’t ignorant enough, the Facebook event encouraged attendees to “dress festively” and showed pictures of two CoHo employees dressed as border patrol officers while four students wearing sombreros attempted to climb over a fence behind them.
While several students justified the celebration as a harmless attempt at having fun, it is necessary to understand that insensitive parties like these are far from lighthearted and only perpetuate the racist stereotypes that Chicanx and Latinx communities have been spending years trying to shed.
With Latinx students making up 19 percent of the student body at UC Davis, students should strive to be respectful and inclusive of these underrepresented and underserved communities rather than hold ignorant, alienating events for the sake of “fun.”
The Editorial Board encourages all students to turn down those “Cinco de Drinko” Facebook events and urge everyone they know to do the same. There are a myriad of other ways to celebrate Mexican culture other than drowning yourself in tequila and donning racist clothing. The CCC highlights a few of these alternatives, including supporting authentic Mexican businesses, refraining from using Spanish in a disrespectful manner and donating to organizations fighting for immigration rights.
A sombrero is not a fashion accessory and neither is a culture.
There are other days of the year to get blackout drunk. Cinco de Mayo is not one of them.