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Cinco de Mayo Appropriation

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

Let's talk about cultural appropriation on May 5th or “Cinco De Mayo”. This holiday is of Mexican heritage and celebrates the victory of the Mexican army over France at the Battle of Puebla Day in the Franco-Mexican War. It commemorates a singular victory in battle in 1862 and is extremely meaningful in areas with a dense Mexican-American population.

Cultural appropriation is the act of cherry-picking certain symbols or traditions from a culture that is not your own and using them without proper consideration or knowledge of the people you are stealing from.

Much too often, these appropriated symbols and traditions become commercialized to profit from the dominant culture in a society without paying respect to the culture from which the product was appropriated. As a result, harmful stereotypes and a severe lack of cultural understanding are normalized within society and directly impact marginalized communities.

Cinco De Mayo in America for people who are not of Mexican heritage is used as an excuse to wear cheap sombreros, fake mustaches, drink, and party without understanding the cultural meaning behind the holiday. As previously mentioned, the marketing of cultural holidays like Cinco De Mayo is used by corporations to push products onto consumers to make a profit. These stereotypes do not appear out of thin air, but are rather strategically manipulated into the public worldview for the benefit of capitalism and the detriment of groups like Mexican-Americans.

Oddly enough, Cinco De Mayo is not as exuberantly celebrated in Mexico as it is in the United States. In Puebla, Mexico, it is regarded as a cultural holiday but stores, schools, and work still remain mandatory and are not observed.

Mexican-Americans in the United States take pride in Cinco De Mayo and identify with the victory over European colonizers. For many, this holiday symbolizes resistance against colonialism, yet Mexican culture is being appropriated by the dominant culture and used to create harmful stereotypes that keep prejudices against Mexican-Americans alive on a holiday that celebrates freedom from European oppression.

Although symbolically Cinco De Mayo represents the strength of Mexico in the face of colonization, it should not be confused with Mexican Independence Day, when Mexico declared separation from the Spanish government in 1810, more than 50 years before the Battle of Puebla of Cinco De Mayo.

Cultural appropriation on holidays like Cinco De Mayo indirectly negatively affects ethnic communities in the United States. Appropriation further normalizes the prejudice, stereotypes, and racism that Mexican-American culture has to defend itself against. It's ironic and unjust that the traditions of ethnic groups in the United States are being appropriated and used to oppress the groups these cultural traits have been stolen from.

Cinco De Mayo is not an excuse to go bar hopping and partake in cheap attempts at capitalist recreations of Mexican cultural tradition.

Learn to respect and honor the individuals and cultural history behind such holidays before choosing to partake in activities that exploit the communities the holiday originated from.

-CULTURE Society Incorporated

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