Worried that “non-Mexican individuals” might partake of Cinco de Mayo festivities, Gonzaga University is telling students, “Don’t you dare put on that ‘sombrero.’”
In an email to the student body Wednesday, VP of Student Development Judi Biggs Garbuio notes that Cinco de Mayo is “a relatively minor holiday” in Mexico, but “has evolved into a commemoration of Mexican culture and heritage” in the United States.
“Unfortunately, the celebrations have become less about the appreciation of Mexican heritage, and instead has become more about drinking and partying especially by non-Mexican individuals,” she continued. “Because of this, there are many instances when Cinco de Mayo becomes a holiday that is full of cultural appropriation.
“At some college campuses, including our own,” she warned, “students create ‘theme’ parties or dress in costumes that are insensitive and offensive to the Mexican-American and more broadly the Latinx culture.”
Biggs Garbuio concluded by suggesting that students go to the Facebook page of the the Unity Multicultural Education Center (UMEC), which includes a graphic and link to a website listing “6 Ways To Celebrate Cinco de Mayo Without Appropriating The Mexican Culture.”
The website gives tips which include, “It’s a good thing to ask yourself if what you’re wearing may be offensive to the culture you’re celebrating. And if you have to ask, you should probably refrain,” as well as, “especially don’t say things like ‘drinko’ or ‘eato’ or decide to bust out ‘andale’ or ‘hola.’”
The graphic on the UMEC Facebook provided additional advice for “alternative ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo,” starting with “don’t you dare put on that ‘sombrero.’”
Instead, it suggests that students “learn about the history of Cinco de Mayo and how it became a part of US popular culture.” While they are doing that, it adds, they should try to “acknowledge the stereotypes you have internalized and discover why they are problematic.”
It then recommends that students “support AUTHENTIC Mexican businesses,” but immediately clarifies that “CHIPOTLE DOESN’T COUNT,” apparently because it does not employ “actual Mexican people.”
“Try a family-owned restaurant run by actual Mexican people (They have better food anyway. We promise.),” the flyer says. “Maybe even enjoy some authentic Mexican music.”
It then goes on to list various other forms of cultural appropriation that students should avoid along with sombreros.
“No serapes. No fake mustache. Avoid every party store. No ‘Cinco de Drinko.’ No disrespectful use of Spanish. No homogenizing Latinx communities,” it dictates. “Oh, and hold your friends accountable when they do any (or all) of these.”
Interestingly, the flyer concludes by urging students to “donate to organizations working for immigrant rights.”
“If you celebrate this holiday while disrespecting the people whom it belongs to, shame on you,” it states. “Any day is a good day to start recognizing the equality of all people, no matter where they’ve come from.”
UPDATE: Biggs Garbuio provided Campus Reform with a statement explaining that “the intent of the Cinco de Mayo email is to provide educational and historical information related to the Cinco de Mayo festival, and to remind students to be respectful of themselves and the surrounding community.”