Dilemma: Your friends invite you to go shopping for their “Cinco de Drinko” party. You want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo but you’re not trying to be a cultural appropriator. You try telling your friends maybe buying sombreros, fake mustaches and changing “Mayo” to “Drinko” isn’t the most respectful way to celebrate the holiday. So they retort with, “well then what is a respectful way to celebrate?” Now you start to wonder yourself.
Many people believe that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day, but that day is actually celebrated on September 16. Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of Mexico’s victory in the Franco-Mexican war. In 1861, Mexico found itself in debt to Britain, Spain, and France. France decided to engage in war with Mexico while the other countries did not.
On May 5, 1862 the two countries fought in the Battle at Puebla. Although things were not looking good for Mexico because they were heavily outnumbered, they were still able to secure a victory thus creating a massive spark of hope for their country. This spark was what contributed to the creation of Cinco de Mayo.
Why the history lesson? Well it’s because I believe that the first step to respecting something, is understanding it. One of the worst things we as human beings can do is surround ourselves with ignorance. Today, with the click of a button we can read about anything we want to. Yet all too often, people would rather keep believing what they have always been told than do some research for themselves.
Here in the states we commonly celebrate Cinco de Mayo by getting together with friends and partying. Bars decorate for the holiday and cities throw parades. It’s a lot of fun and should be thoroughly enjoyed but it should also be understood. It is a day which has very strong cultural significance, to treat it just as an excuse to get wasted and wear a poncho could cost you.
This is why I suggest getting immersed in the actual culture before anything else. Find out if your city or town is putting on a parade. Or even go out to your local authentic Mexican restaurant and support it. It’s okay to do those kinds of things, and shucks it’s even okay to chase those tacos down with some tequila. It’s not okay to show up in a costume and attempt to order in what little Spanish you remember from 10th grade.
Remember, there is a fine line today between having fun and making fun of. Granted, it can be hard to see these days, trust me–the line is there. And if you aren’t careful with how you engage in these things, it can really hurt you. Many people have lost friends, jobs, and sometimes their lives because they offended someone else’s culture.
The holiday is intended to be fun and exciting, but please remember to keep it appropriate. In a bar full of drunk people screaming “Happy Cinco de Drinko!” be the voice of reason. Just say ” Happy Cinco de Mayo.”
Now you know how to respectfully celebrate this holiday, grab a vina and have a blast!