You’ve probably heard of Cinco de Mayo. You probably know it is a Mexican holiday and you’ve probably had one or two celebratory margaritas for the occasion. You probably do not know, however, that it is not Mexican Independence Day. It is not even a widely celebrated holiday in Mexico (as is the actual Mexican Independence Day, September 16). Rather, Cinco de Mayo is a day to commemorate the Battle of Pueblo and the elimination of French presence in Mexico. The only reason it exists in the United States is because it was later adopted by the United Farm Workers Union as a way to promote Chicano pride and culture in the U.S.
Today in the U.S., as you probably know, the holiday is characterized by copious amounts of Mexican flags and alcoholic beverages. You have probably even been to one of these events. You might even attend a Cinco de Drinko party.
Though not all Cinco de Mayo events in the U.S. are problematic, events that “celebrate” Cinco de Mayo stray away from the original intent of the holiday and become instances of appropriation that significantly impact those whose culture it pertains to.
“It’s been adopted by some Americans as an excuse to get drunk and appropriate a culture that they don’t necessarily appreciate the other 364 days of the year,” junior Veronica Padilla Vriesman, who is Chicana, said. Those who participate in this appropriation and debasement of culture probably do not think about what they are celebrating. They probably just want to have fun. They probably didn’t take the time to wonder at whose expense their fun is had.
Another Chicana student, junior Romelia Loaiza, said, “The one holiday Chicanos get is turned into a glorified drinking fest, but completely ignores the amounts of alcoholism and depression in latinx communities, and also ignores how the higher levels of alcoholism and depression are linked to colonization and white exploitation of black and brown bodies. But I digress.”
But I digress.
Your fellow peers have to “digress” and feel the need to silence themselves in the face of this loud ignorance.
But they will not be silenced.
A real Cinco de Mayo celebration will be held by the Latin American Student
Organization (LASO) as a study break on Wednesday during finals week.
“We hope to present a piece of Mexican history to Colgate’s campus through cultural food, music and dance. We also hope to reclaim a piece of Mexican tradition and reject stereotypical celebrations of Cinco de Mayo,” said Chicano junior and President of LASO Bennie Guzman.
I will attend this celebration. I believe it’s an important way to increase openness to other cultures and a willingness to learn as well as foster a greater sense of community. I hope that this Cinco de Mayo celebration will help prevent instances of hurtful appropriation in the future.