Hey y’all. I’m going to rant for a hot minute. Bear with me.
Being of Mexican descent, but not ‘looking Mexican’ has both it’s privileges and biases. I have ‘passing privilege,’ but ‘looking white’ means I’m not always accepted by the Mexican community. I constantly feel the need to explain to people that my mom was born in Mexico City, that her father was Mexican, that I still have quite an extended family living in Mexico, and even the fun fact that apparently one of my mom’s great uncles did a family tree and found that we’re related to a Mexican President from the 19th century.
Cinco de Mayo is a holiday which causes me quite a bit of annoyance and I often take offense to my white peers (yes, it is predominately my white peers doing this) celebrating Cinco de Mayo in what seems like a blatantly disrespectful, racist manner. This past Cinco de Mayo I posted this Facebook status which reflected how I feel about the holiday:
Dear non-Mexican, non-Mexican-American Americans,
Your dawning of a sombrero while drinking shot after shot of tequila in a ‘Mexican’ restaurant in ‘celebration’ of Cinco de Mayo is not interpreted as your accepting my familial heritage nor recognizing the struggles Mexicans have gone through in order to make a living in this country, but rather quite the cultural appropriated opposite.
Descendant of Those People Who Better Stay on Our Side of the Border or Else We’ll Get Kicked Out (that is, unless we’re not taking ‘American’ jobs, make less than minimum wage, and/or hook you up with extra guac on your burrito)
This status received a lot of positive feedback from my Facebook friends, so I felt like people were understanding where I was coming from and I felt really validated.
That is, until I ran across this event photo.
I was so shocked and disgusted that I reported the photo to Facebook (they didn’t consider it hateful, so they didn’t remove it). I asked The Hawk to remove the photo and event from Facebook which they finally did yesterday.
This is the Letter to the Editor I wrote and had published in the University Daily Kansan:
Dear Jayhawk Café aka The Hawk,
I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and think the reason why you thought it was appropriate to create and post such an offensively racist photo for your ‘Cinco de Drinko’ event (as well as call the event ‘Cinco de Drinko’) is because you are ignorant and know not what you do. Let me educate you, so in the future I can just call you out for being a racist establishment and not have to go through the hubbub of thinking I can help you not be so horribly bigoted and offensive.
First, a history lesson is necessary. Cinco de Mayo was created to commemorate the astonishing victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at The Battle of Puebla in 1862. (Some have described this battle as a ‘David and Goliath’ battle, if this gives you some perspective). It is mostly celebrated in the Mexican state of Puebla, with some very limited recognition in other parts of Mexico. It is not, as many people think, Mexico’s Independence Day, which is actually September 16. Cinco de Mayo in the United States is celebrated by Mexican-Americans as a way to foster Mexican pride.
It would appear however that cultural appropriation has struck again and non-Mexican and non-Mexican-Americans have observed this holiday, said ‘oh that looks fun!’ while strapping on a sombrero, and thought that with enough tequila shots they too might identify with a culture completely separate from their own. To be clear, cultural appropriation is different than cultural exchange. Some Americans are used to pressing their own culture onto others, taking what they want in return, and using someone else’s cultural symbols to satisfy a personal need for self-expression. This is not a mutual exchange. This is appropriating the parts of my culture you like while leaving the rest. (Got privilege?)
Now that I have informed you what Cinco de Mayo commemorates, who celebrates it (or rather, who should be celebrating it), and what cultural appropriation is, I feel I can begin to dissect how horribly racist and offensive your event and photo are toward Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.
Hawk Facebook photo artist, did you Google ‘drunk Mexican’? I bet someone 10 bucks this is how the photo was found. How you thought this photo would be better with a photoshopped sombrero is beyond me, but to go even further by titling your event ‘Cinco de Drinko’ is just undermining/degrading/belittling/etc. the holiday i.e. undermining/degrading/belittling/etc. Mexican culture.
America has commercialized Cinco de Mayo and made it a holiday in which drinking unreasonable amounts of booze is acceptable. This deeply saddens me because there is so much more to Mexican culture which I think Mexicans and Mexican-Americans would gladly exchange with other Americans. What The Hawk’s photo/event says to me is the same message I receive when I walk by any Hispanic/Latino restaurant on May 5th – the majority of Americans have no interest in learning about Mexican culture and couldn’t care less unless we’re taking ‘their’ jobs, making above minimum wage, want to live here, or refuse to give them extra guac on their burrito. If any of these occur, then all sombreros off bro.
My advice? Next time you create a Facebook event ask at least 3 other people if they think it could be offensive. I feel like this might save both you and I time.
I literally hate Cinco de Mayo.
Keep it weird y’all,