Cinco De Mayo is arguably the most misunderstood holiday celebrated in America. Every year non-Mexican Americans see Cinco De Mayo as an opportunity to have “Mexican-themed” parties and get incredibly drunk. Most go as far as to call it “Cinco de Drinko”. In today’s political climate these actions are not only ignorant but also come across as a slap in the face to Mexican Americans and others in the Latinx community who are facing constant xenophobia.
If you find yourself wanting to celebrate Cinco De Mayo this year here are a few things you should know to prevent stereotyping the Mexican culture.
Know What Cinco De Mayo Is
It’s important to know why people even celebrate Cinco De Mayo to begin with. On May 5, 1862 in the Town of Puebla the Mexican Army defeated French imperialists despite being significantly outnumbered. Despite being a victory remember this is the anniversary of the death of Mexican soldiers. It is not Mexico’s Independence Day, that is September 16 aka El Dieciséis de Septiembre, which would actually be a much better day to celebrate.
Why Celebrate Cinco De Mayo?
This is a complicated question because Cinco De Mayo isn’t actually a major holiday in Mexico at all. The majority of Mexicans don’t celebrate this holiday at all. America on the other hand took this holiday and commercialized it by piggybacking on the Chicano movement of the 1960s. Fast forward to today and beer companies, chain restaurants and even clothing companies market Cinco De Mayo as a fun, goofy holiday that’s an excuse to be racist.
Don’t Be Racist
In late April 2017 a fraternity at Baylor University in Texas held a “Mexican-themed” party to celebrate Cinco De Mayo. Guests showed up wearing sombreros, mustaches, ponchos, maid costumes, construction costumes and even a few showed up wearing brown face. Sadly this party is one of many that have happened over the years.
That is a very drastic example of racism but even subtle microaggressions are harmful. Having something like a sombrero as a table setting or a photo booth with mustaches and sugar skulls feeds into negative Mexican stereotypes. Think of it like this, would you go to an African party in Black face? The Mexican and Mexican American culture is one that is rich, diverse and so much more than what Saturday morning cartoons depict it to be.
Don’t stop by your local party store to celebrate. Throw away that sombrero you have, take off the “ethnic” looking dress you bought from some department store and do not over line your lips and slick your hair back in an attempt to look chola. Similar to Halloween no aspect of the Mexican culture, whether that be classic, chicano/a or chola/o, is a costume for you to dress up in.
Keep It Local
There are ways to celebrate without stereotyping Cinco De Mayo. Begin by supporting Mexicans, Mexican Americans and the Latinx community as a whole. Skip the chain restaurants and support locally owned Mexican restaurants. Or you can really immerse yourself in the culture by attempting to make your own Mexican cuisine. Avoid businesses that support calling it “Cinco de Drinko”.
It’s also important to avoid attempting to speak in broken Spanish. Spanglish isn’t funny especially considering people who actually speak Spanish are being targeted for speaking it.
Consider going to a community ran Cinco De Mayo celebration. For instance in Denver there is an annual Cinco De Mayo Festival that showcases a variety of vendors, performers and even a parade. Also it may be more worthwhile to donate money towards a Latinx non-profit that is working to better the Latinx community.
Celebrating Cinco De Mayo without stereotyping it isn’t hard. Just be conscious about what you’re doing and saying. Culture isn’t a costume nor is it a joke. The Latinx community in America is struggling and cultural insensitivity is the last thing needed.