Friday, May 5, 2017

Cinco de Mayo: Cultural Appropriation Day

This article first appeared in New English Review.

Image result for cinco de mayo

Today is Cinco de Mayo aka Drinko de Mayo. Today is the day in the US that Mexicans and Americans alike flock to bars and parties to get sloshed on Corona and Tequila. It is a day when all the disagreements about immigration and borders are put aside as we celebrate the victory of the Mexicans over the French. Of course, in Mexico, there is no holiday and nobody really does anything because they know that a military victory over the French is nothing to celebrate. We know that too but it is an excuse to drink and party just like we celebrate St Patrick's Day. That's when we put on green pants and pretend we  are all a bunch of drunken Irishmen. Or Oktoberfest when we all put on green pants, go to places in SoCal like Old World Village (Huntington Beach), listen to a German oompah band, eat bratwurst, and drink imported, pasteurized German beer that tastes more like American beer by the liter.

But I digress.

Think of it. The French, God bless them, have been defeated in wars by Mexico, Vietnam, and Algeria among others. I know what you wise guys out there are going to say: The US was also defeated in the Vietnam war. Not really. Our military won every major battle fought. We lost diplomatically and politically. The French left Vietnam (Indo China) after their disastrous defeat at Dien Bien Phu. We may have had better soldiers, but we didn't have better politicians (or college students).

But I digress again. Here is my thesis:

Before you UC Santa Cruz Community Studies and History of Consciousness majors (and all of you real university students as well) start gearing up for the big 5 tonight, remember you will be engaging in that big collegiate no-no.

Cultural appropriation.

That's right. You are stealing the culture of another people. They will be offended. Actually, only on a college campus. In the real world, we will come together, link arms, and toast each other. But not in the rarefied air of academia where all the smart people live. Of course, nobody cares if it's the Irish or Germans. That's because they are "privileged whites", and Western culture doesn't matter anymore anyway. Only the cultures of peoples of color matter. They cannot be touched- even affectionately. All we can do is salute them, but we cannot participate in them. That would be cultural appropriation. So all you UC Santa Cruz students who are occupying the president's office as I write, stay where you are for at least one more day.

And the rest of you can forget about rushing out to the store for Corona and Jose Cuervo. Unless you are of Mexican heritage, that is forbidden- verboten-haram. Of course, since my wife is Mexican, and I no longer work on a university campus, I feel free to indulge tonight.

Except my wife says no way is she going to allow me to spend the night guzzling beer and drinking shots of tequila.


Burrito Bandito said...

Cultural appropriation is a real issue, but too many people are too quick to make the accusation.

Big sombreros and fake mustaches - in other words, dressing up as a caricature? I'd say that's bad.

Enjoying a mariachi band? Having Mexican food? Enjoying some margaritas and/or tequila? That's celebrating a culture.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Dressing up as a caricature can be rightly critiqued without making up new terms like "cultural appropriation."

I was told by a home heating tech born in Mexico that only in the state where the Battle of Puebla was fought are there significant celebrations of Cinquo de Mayo. And, of course, in the United States.

Gary Fouse said...

I think it's safe to say they don't celebrate Cinco de Mayo in France. (LOL)

Gary Fouse said...


I think Mexican culture is the richest culture in the world (except for the bandidos, of course). The food, the music, the artwork etc. I could go on and on. As for the big sombreros, they are produced in Mexico. One time I was eating and drinking with some Mexican cops in Mexico City at one of those big outdoor restaurants (El Arroyo) and they bought me one of those sombreros with a 3 foot rim and three foot top. Imagine me squeezing that onto the airplane.

And no. I don't think cultural appropriation in an issue at all. If it is done with an intent to be insulting, call it something else. Prejudice is a better term. If you are going to say that every culture is private property,then we will begin to ignore other cultures. That's not good. I prefer to enjoy them. I will also say this: There are a few-very few- cultures that I don't have much regard for. But that's another story.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I think it's safe to say they don't celebrate Cinco de Mayo in France.

Well, yeah, just like they don't celebrate the Fourth of July in London, they don't celebrate the Grito de Delores in Madrid, and the don't celebrate the Shanghai Massacre in Beijing.