Cinco de Mayo pisses me off

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

Found this photo on a friend's facebook page, original rights are unknown
Found this photo on a friend’s facebook page, original rights are unknown
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2 thoughts on “Cinco de Mayo pisses me off

  1. Damn. Couldn’t agree more. My partner (whose parents are Irish and who lived in Ireland until she was 13) feels quite similar about St. Patrick’s Day, which everyone basically sees as an excuse to get drunk on shots like ‘Irish carbombs’ (just think about that for a second: a drink named after an IED – how does ANYONE think that’s a good idea?!).

    Then again, Americans don’t even celebrate our own holidays very well, viewing them mostly as a day off work. So we don’t think about Labor activism giving us a 5 day work week on Labor Day or the fallen soldiers meant to be mourned on Memorial Day or the living veterans that are supposed to be honored on Veterans’ Day or the revolutionary spirit of national autonomy (not necessary state autonomy…) that led to July 4th. Instead, we have a day off work. And we drink. This seems embarrassing, somehow.

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  2. Dead-on. I got pictures on the 5th of my friends (not just whites) with tequilla, rum, celebrating cultural appropriation. Cinqo de Drinko, as I think they called it on MSNBC or CNN or somewhere similar while wearing sombreros. It’s very ironic and mostly terrible that we’ve appropriated a holiday that’s based off the repelling of foreign invaders.

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