I know Cinco de Mayo is approaching when sombreros are being sold on campus, when supermarkets begin to dress their aisles in sarapes and when themed parties begin to overflow the streets of Isla Vista. On the surface, these things may appear to be a celebration of Mexican culture and lifestyle, bringing students together over a handle of Jose Cuervo. While there is nothing wrong with celebrating a culture or holiday when it’s a form of appreciation, where do we draw the line when each and every year UCSB and society-at-large trademarks Cinco de Mayo with sarapes, sombreros and tequila shots?
A symbol typically associated with Cinco de Mayo is the sombrero, which comes from the Spanish word sombra, or shade. Originators of the sombrero were Mestizo workers — people of mixed Latin, European and Native American descent who worked in Mexico and the Southern United States. Sombreros are a symbol of hard work for people who had to work in the fields. It is a symbol of perseverance, struggle and survival. It has no relation to Cinco de Mayo. Along with the sombrero, the phrase “Cinco de Drinko” is another form of appropriation that perpetuates the stereotype of a drunk Mexican that not only appropriates a language, but also reduces a large population of self-respecting people into alcoholics.
Cultural appropriation is the adoption of icons, rituals, etc. from one culture or subculture by another. Appropriation occurs without any real understanding of why the original culture took part in these activities or the meanings behind these activities. This often results in the conversion of culturally significant artifacts, practices and beliefs, into “meaningless” (and irrelevant) pop culture, or giving them significance that is completely different than what they originally had.
Within its historical context, Cinco de Mayo marks the victory of a battle won in the city of Puebla against the French army. It is commemorated and celebrated locally, but it is not recognized as a national Mexican holiday. Contrary to what many people have heard, Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexico’s Independence Day — Sept. 16 is.
UCSB, be critical of what Cinco de Mayo really is: One day a year when people wear sombreros, mustaches, throw back tequila and have fun being “Mexican.” Some live the reality 365 days a year for their entire lives without the sombreros or mustaches. Don’t appropriate a culture that struggles to even be here in the States. It’s interesting that during this time people choose to be “Mexican,” but I highly doubt anyone would trade the life of a real Campesino, one working the field, wearing that infamous sombrero.
This letter was co-written by Ariana Rodriguez (La Familia de Colores), Megan Foronda (A.S. Office of the President), Mario Vasquez (Human Rights Board), Norma Orozco (I.D.E.A.S.) and Navkiran Kaur (S.C.O.R.E.).
A version of this letter appeared on page 8 of the May 7, 2013 print edition of the Nexus.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students.
Couldn’t agree with you more. Christmas has become a product of global consumerism. St. Patrick’s day is all about shamrocks and booze. Meanwhile, there is an appalling lack of awareness or concern for the leprechauns in Ireland, or the elves in the North Pole.
Don’t be a twat.
Thanks for equating Mexicans with leprechauns and elves. You are a beautiful human being (see I can be sarcastic too!)
The point is how people have changed the original purpose of certain holidays and forgotten their significance in the re-appropriation of these holidays, not that elves and leprechauns are on the same level as Mexicans.
I agree with most of this, but I disagree that the phrase “Cinco de Drinko” refers to Mexicans as drunkards… the term refers to us, the drunken college students who are indeed alcoholics.
“perpetuates the stereotype of a drunk Mexican”
It isn’t a direct reference but since alcohol companies are constantly pushing their products on the Latino community, this term only strengths this problem of associating our culture with alcohol. The “drunk Mexican” stereotype is a reality that we are constantly exposed to (it is ridiculing and offensive) and this term certainly doesn’t help.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg as to why this is problematic.
I’ve always thought this about Cinco de Mayo. And I’m really glad someone said it.
Cinco de Mayo has pretty much dick all to do with the celebration of actual Mexican culture, just like St. Paddy’s Day has pretty much dick all to do with celebrating Irish culture, or how Christmas has pretty much dick all to do with celebrating Christianity. I don’t think anyone is really even pretending it does beyond a surface level. This is why I hate PC culture. Cinco de Mayo, in America at least, is an excuse to get together with friends and have fun, and nobody is getting hurt, and nobody should have to apologize for it. I’ve never… Read more »
I can’t tell if this reply is being ironic or not.
Hegemony, brah. or whatever.
are you fucking serious??? if anything, cinquo de mayo is part of Mexican-American youth culture. so all you culturally incompetent, privileged white people (who continuously abuse and don’t check your privilege of whiteness) should respect the celebration! this does not mean you can not have a good time, but it does mean you should stop being racists!!
AND don’t event think about calling us sensitive for calling out your racism.