Celebrating Cinco de Mayo: Dos and Don’ts

Cinco de Mayo is here, and with more and more people being vaccinated, it may be tempting to seize the opportunity, go out on the town, and use this holiday as an excuse to celebrate! While it is more important now than ever to reconnect with friends and family, celebrate with our communities, and get out of our COVID bubbles (only in safe and CDC-approved ways, of course), make sure you’re aware of a few things before you make any plans.

1Watch for cultural appropriation

In the last few years, as mainstream culture has begun to take more notice of cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity, the term “cultural appropriation” has seen more use. Cultural appropriation occurs when a group or person uses intellectual or material “property” belonging to a culture not of their own in ways that are insensitive, offensive or simply inappropriate to the originating culture or people. It’s important to ensure that practices, celebrations, costumes, sayings, or other activities you’re engaging in are not being used to make fun or make light of someone else’s culture — i.e. are you wearing that sombrero to get laughs from your friends, or because you actually care to celebrate the holiday respectfully? Consider these tips before making any Cinco de Mayo plans.

2Know the history

One way to prevent harmful appropriation is to know the history and background of whatever event you’re celebrating. For Cinco de Mayo, it’s often far different than what we learn in popular conception. Cinco de Mayo is not “Mexican Independence Day,” but the celebration of an important battle victory in the Mexican state of Puebla that helped give the Mexican resistance movement hope in a war against France in 1861. While celebrated with military parades and similar events in Puebla and potentially some other Mexican states, Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday and does not create the commotion in Mexico as it does in the US. Reading more about the celebration’s history may make you reconsider why and how you celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

3Respect the culture and people

Appropriation is not always bad — in fact, every culture can and does appropriate. Without it, we wouldn’t have things like blue jeans, for example. But respect is key. The best forms of appropriation are actually two-way dialogues, or involve some benefit for the party from whom something is being borrowed. For example, giving credit where credit is due, ensuring that cultural event celebrations are organized by members of that culture, and sharing any benefits received with representatives of that culture can be important ways of refocusing a celebration on the culture which is being celebrated.

4Celebrate in positive ways

Instead of celebrating something like Cinco de Mayo without having any cultural connection or ties, perhaps invest more in your own background and culture and see what there is to celebrate there. When we all come together from diverse backgrounds, bringing authentic and respectful celebrations and cultural elements for others to take part in, we will end up with a much richer and much more connected community.

Reach out to us at Dr. Logan Speaks and let us know if you learned anything new from these ideas about celebrating cultural holidays like Cinco de Mayo!

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