What are you doing for Cinco de Mayo?

Answer: Welp, just about the same thing I'm doing for seis de mayo, siete de mayo and every día de mayo después.

I haven't had much free time this week. Between Adrian's birthday (yay!) and school and afterschool and immigration marches and friends' birthdays, it's been a little crazy. That said, sitting down to write and think just has not happened. It will, but just not yet.
Sigh. 

In light of that, I'm going to take about ten minutes to share some thoughts on Cinco de Mayo. Inspired by my sister's post and by bunches of conversations this week, I have cinco observations for Cinco de Mayo.

They are as follows:
1) I have talked a lot about Cinco de Mayo this week.
2) Aside from talking with Adrian about our distaste for the holiday, not one of those conversations about Cinco de Mayo has been with anyone of Mexican heritage, be it Mexican-mexican (meaning from Mexico) or Mexican-American.
3) This is astounding based upon the fact that roughly 60% of my conversations this week were shared with people of Mexican origin.
4) I have not heard of any parties or other celebrations for Cinco de Mayo, except those being thrown by people of non-Mexican origin.
5) I heard of one workplace in which "Mexican facts" were being shared with the company in honor of Cinco de Mayo.

So, there's that.

Before donning that sombrero or fake mustache or poncho or before grabbing a shot of tequila and yelling "ay ay ay" or some such nonsense, please consider this: You're mocking me. You're mocking Adrian. You're mocking my grandfather. My mother. My aunts and uncles. My cousins. My in-laws. My nieces and nephews. My students. My neighbors. You're making us your entertainment. The butt of your joke.

And as my sister explained, it goes beyond this:
See, the problem I have with celebrating Cinco de Mayo by getting wasted off tequila and/or Coronas and wearing a big sombrero and a fake mustache is that when you do this, you turn an entire ethnicity into a caricature. You perpetuate stereotypes and help to objectify an entire ethnicity. When an ethnicity is turned into an object instead of treating each person as an individual/human, it is much easier to justify policies against them or, on a smaller scale, to justify mocking them. 

One last thought: I know that there is this thought that if we check in with our Mexican friend and he/she says it's fine and that he/she isn't offended, it's okay, right? No, no it's not okay. Because if one Mexican isn't offended, then surely all Mexicans aren't offended, right? Putting it in those terms, we hear how ridiculous this idea is, yes? Please say yes.

The very notion that one person could speak on behalf of an entire people group as a collective representative is ridiculous and is reflective of the very problem that I have with Cinco de Mayo: boiling down an entire culture and group of individuals into one, as if everyone thinks the same, acts the same, looks the same.

The idea then is to move away from feeding into this "Mexicans are all the same" mentality and into seeing Mexicans as we are: individuals. And then to start looking at our own behaviors, including how we choose to celebrate (or not celebrate) Cinco de Mayo, and how they place barriers between ourselves. To see how by placing me or Adrian or whoever into this little box of how a Mexican should be, you're missing out on getting to know who we actually are. How comments of "you don't look Mexican" or "he's too tall to be Mexican" offer insight into how little we understand the diversity of the Mexican people.

The idea is to move into love and understanding and appreciation and I just can't see how Cinco de Mayo celebrations with sombreros and mustaches and tequila fit into that.

And with that, enjoy your weekend! In a respectfully inclusive way, no?

2 comments:

  1. I just went to go follow you, and I already am :) haha, I should visit your blog more often!! Because I love it.
    And yea, I have no plans for cinco de mayo. Maybe I'll get some salsa from my favorite restaurant and sit on the deck with my chips. Fun, huh?
    Come enter my current giveaway to win $40 gift card to Rendi! It's a really sweet new decor company!

    http://www.anticipationblog.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-giveaway-from-rendi.html

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  2. This is great, Emily. We visited a Latino church yesterday and I heard the pastor mention "Today is Cinco de Mayo... celebrated really here in the States more than in Mexico." It seemed so goofy. I appreciate your voice and important reminder in the midst of a celebration that many may not consider.

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