Misunderstanding the origins of Cinco de Mayo has become commonplace in the United States, especially in college communities, and has evolved into an excuse to party as a result, something students agree upon.
Members of the Changemakers Club, the Latino Student Union, the South Asian Student Association, the Ethnic Student Center and Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán provided students with information regarding the history of Cinco de Mayo on Thursday, May 5, in Red Square.
The “@” symbol is used in both Chican@ and Latin@ to render the terms gender neutral.
The purpose was to shed light on the idea that the way the day is celebrated in the U.S. tends to appropriate Mexican culture.
“One of the reasons why we’re talking about [Cinco de Mayo], is because in the United States, it gets commercialized, and we have stereotypes that get perpetuated,” co-chair of the Latin@ Student Union Alberto Rodriguez said. “In reality, the United States celebrates Cinco De Mayo more than Puebla does.”
“It’s helpful to understand the background of different national holidays, or really anything from a different culture.”
Junior Naomi Blankenship
Esme Espinoza is the vice president of Outreach and Activities for the Changemakers Club and one of the coordinators of the event. A Cinco de Mayo themed event hosted by the NXNY apartment complex “tokenized” the holiday and inspired the tabling, Espinoza said.
Cinco de Mayo is a day that observes the Mexican army’s unlikely victory against the French during the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, not a celebration of Mexico gaining its independence — which came on September 16. Junior Bridene Fisher sees a problem with this misconception.
“If you’re going to be celebrating another culture’s heritage, something that’s important to them, you may as well know why,” Fisher said.
President of the Changemakers Club Chancy Wozow said celebrators take these misconceptions and turn them into a way in which to perpetuate stereotypes, such as wearing mustaches, ponchos and sombreros. Wozow said one of the goals of the student groups’ tabling was to teach people how to properly celebrate the holiday.
“A lot of people don’t know that when they’re celebrating Cinco de Mayo, they’re appropriating a culture,” Wozow said. “They’re taking a culture that isn’t theirs and turning it into something that isn’t respectful.”
Junior Naomi Blankenship agrees there’s a misunderstanding of Cinco de Mayo and commended the tabling for its role in educating students.
“It’s helpful to understand the background of different national holidays, or really anything from a different culture,” Blankenship said. “It’s helpful to understand the reasons behind why the day was created.”