Blog: Cinco de Mayo – a ’Celebration’ of Cultural Appropriation and Stereotypes

Cinco de Mayo, Drinko de Mayo or Cinco de Drinko?

Taking as many tequila shots as possible, wearing sombreros and sticker moustaches, buying ponchos from a local Party City and heading to a friend’s party for some nachos and tacos.

This is the day when all the stereotypes of Mexican heritage bloom and taint the public’s  perception of Mexicans — transforming them into caricatures, drunkards, a “fiesta” machine named Juan who is your party buddy for that night and the next day is your classmate who you ignore.

Mexicans, or all races cultures and ethnicities are not costumes. Just because you can get a “Sexy Native Indian Maiden” costume at Wal-Mart does not mean that it is appropriate to wear.

The public seems to only care about a certain racial demographic when it benefits them. Dressing up for your Washington Redskins game by applying war paint on your face and adjusting the plastic headdress around your head, but then later arguing that you are not contributing to cultural appropriation is a lie. If you care about the “redskins” so much, where’s your concern for the fact that native youth are three times more likely to commit suicide? Or the fact that if the Keystone XL bill is passed, it will contaminate the water supply of thousands, including Native Americans that live in the reservations it will pass through?

With your love of tequila, where is your love for the Latino population? Where’s your advocacy for immigration reform and work equality. Where is your stance against racially motivated hate crimes? In some places, Latin youths are hunted down by other teens Onesimo Marcelino Lopez-Ramos was beaten in the head with a rock until he died on April 18 by Floridian teens who were purposefully attacking Latinos.

Let’s go back to the roots of Cinco de Mayo and examine how it has evolved since then, especially in the United States.

Cinco de Mayo originally celebrated the Mexican victory over the French army in 1862, in the state of Puebla. Today, Puebla is one of the very few states that celebrate this “holiday” in Mexico.  Contrary to what some may think it is not Mexico’s Independence Day. That holiday is celebrated on September 16.

In the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, Chicanos attempted to use Cinco de Mayo as a way to showcase Mexican culture, history and awareness in the United States, wedging a Latin presence into the American calendar.

But it has done the complete opposite.

Cinco de Mayo has been a festering playground for alcohol and food companies — Corona uses the “holiday” as a way to catapult its summer advertising. According to Nielsen, a market research company, more than $600 million was spent on beer in 2013.

“These representations are anchored in a new racism ideology that emphasizes cultural difference, individualism, liberalism, and colorblindness, which reinforce existing racial inequalities,” José M. Alamillo, a professor at California State University, said in his academic study.

It also perpetuates generalizations of those with Latino heritage, making some believe, for example,  that all Latinos look the same and eat the same cuisine.

I am not of Mexican heritage, but I am part of the Latino population. For me, it was incredibly appalling to walk into the diner on Tuesday and see huge banners saying “FIESTA”. A friend also informed me of the food co-op having a “Taco Tuesday” poster, with the Warner Brother’s Looney Tunes cartoon Speedy Gonzalez drawn next to it.

Or when @Umterps tweeted a photo of Testudo wearing a sombrero, with the Mexican flag in the backdrop, using the hastag #TemeLaTortuga.

We cannot continue to reinforce these stereotypes, and let them have a national presence in our communities, especially in an academic environment where we are “supposed” to be above these stereotypes and misrepresentations.

No matter how “small” this may seem, we cannot let these things slide because they will add up and they will be much harder to remove from our society later.

Americans tend to “celebrate” Cinco de Mayo more than Mexicans do.

Doesn’t that tell you something when the Mexicans they’re supposed to honor, don’t even care or believe that the holiday is an incorrect representation of them?

Some might take part in it because it is the only thing that somehow resembles them, that kind of appreciates them. But they deserve better than that.

Mexico has a massive spectrum of dialects, cultures, cuisine, music, art, fashion and beliefs. It is not constricted to the American-made mold that is projected today.

Do your research, don’t immediately copy something from another culture because you saw it in the media or on YouTube. Instead engage in a conversation with those that are actually of that race or ethnicity and see and actually learn something substantive about their culture.

headshotKarla Casique is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at

One response to “Blog: Cinco de Mayo – a ’Celebration’ of Cultural Appropriation and Stereotypes”

  1. […] to help us. That tired old practice of exploitation dressed up as celebration is seen time, and time, and time […]

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