Yesterday, the ‘holiday’ of Cinco de Mayo was celebrated throughout the United States. (And, just to note here—only the United States.) I had friends drink Mexican-imported tequila, sport sombreros purchased at Party City, advertise their celebration of “Cinco de Drinko”, and post photos to SnapChat with the Cinco de Mayo screen filter visible. White friends used May fifth as an excuse to drink, without any sense of the reason for the meaning awarded to Cinco de Mayo, their ignorant cultural appropriation, or the reality that the United States is capitalizing upon a small Mexican battle won by Porfirio Diaz. I am certainly not excused from having celebrated in the past or participated in cultural appropriation myself, but after courses focusing on Latin American revolution and independence, and our course reading (especially Impossible Subjects) I am a little appalled by the continued celebrations of Cinco de Mayo throughout the US.
To speak directly to the terms of our course, we saw in Impossible Subjects the exact nature of the systemic decision to limit Mexican immigration to the United States. Such limitation was racist and deliberate, and demonstrated a sense of American exceptionalism; despite Mexico being our neighbor to the south, American legislation limited immigration to levels resembling those of countries across the Atlantic or Pacific. We didn’t want Mexican immigrants, and deemed ourselves to be the most superior North American country.
As the photo I posted below indicates, this sentiment of American exceptionalism is alive and well, especially when Mexico is considered. Except on Cinco de Mayo, when suddenly American college students across the nation choose to embrace Mexican “heritage” and tequila, and celebrate a holiday of a nation otherwise ignored. Cinco de Mayo encourages purchasing cheap, inauthentic products mimicking Mexican garb and highly-taxed imported tequila to celebrate the nation that we have so willingly ignored and discriminated against for over a century. We pick and choose when we are okay with racism and discrimination, and when we want to use cultures other than the dominant white culture to have fun. And, really, it just pisses me off.
Some other excellent articles: http://zinnedproject.org/2012/05/rethinking-cinco-de-mayo/; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-dan-schatz/how-not-to-celebrate-cinco-de-mayo_b_7201384.html