Cinco de Mayo is often used by those without Mexican heritage as an excuse to drink excessively, according to Cross Cultural Centers coordinator Tammie Velasquez. | File Photo/Mustang News

Cinco de Mayo isn’t an excuse to drink margaritas and wear a sombrero. It’s a real event in Mexican history.

It’s a common misconception that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican independence, according to Tammie Velasquez, coordinator at the Cross Cultural Center. Mexican Independence Day is actually celebrated on Sept. 16, when the colony of Mexico declared war against the Spanish government in 1810.

May 5 is the day the Mexican army defeated France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 during the Franco-Mexican War. And though Cinco de Mayo isn’t celebrated heavily in Mexico, it has become a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage in the United States, and is concentrated in areas with large Mexican-American populations.

“It was one battle in a very large war, so it’s not something that is super observed in Mexico,” Velasquez said. “It’s just become a really Americanized and capitalistic holiday here in the States.”

For many, the holiday has somehow turned into an excuse to justify going to parties and getting drunk. It usually isn’t a problem, until party themes and stereotypes get blown out of proportion and what was just a party becomes offensive.

Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti, a psychology and child development professor, stressed the importance of celebrating Mexican-American and Mexican culture respectfully.

“Any time we appropriate a culture for a reason to have a party, that’s disrespectful,” Pedrotti said. “Using a sombrero or a fake mustache or drinking too much … those are things that don’t come anywhere close to representing the true beauty of Mexican culture, and instead, really demean it.”

Velasquez recommended against dressing up at all for Cinco de Mayo.

“It’s just a huge disrespect to the people, a huge disrespect to the culture, a huge disrespect to the community, to the history, and to a lot of the community members here,“ Velasquez said. “There are a lot of Mexican-identified individuals that live in the area, that attend the school, that work at the school. It’s just very defeating to see when non-Latinos or non-Mexican folks are making a joke out of it, because we’re not a joke.”

Pedrotti said she was planning on using Sept. 16 as a day to celebrate Mexican culture with her children.

“Since we’re in California, there’s a great deal of Mexican history (here), even before we were a state,” Pedrotti said. “And so, I think having some of those pieces of information for them at an early age is a good way to (educate them).”

She went on to say that there a lot of ways to more respectfully celebrate Mexican and Mexican-American culture, and not only on Cinco de Mayo.

“Supporting Mexican-American rights, or being there as an ally if you’re not Mexican … are better ways to appreciate something about Mexico or about Mexican-American history,” Pedrotti said.

Velasquez also gave some options on how to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

“If you are very compelled to celebrate, I would say go support a local Mexican restaurant, eat some traditional foods that haven’t been Anglicized,” Velasquez said. “Like, Chipotle doesn’t count, Taco Bell doesn’t count … I mean, those are really good places to go eat, but if you are trying to be supportive of the people and the history, try supporting communities that are actually going to benefit from it.”

Pedrotti emphasised getting involved in any of the numerous opportunities on campus to better understand Mexican and Mexican-American culture are good ways to celebrate days like Cinco de Mayo.

So instead of putting on mariachi music and drinking too much tequila, consider learning a little bit about Mexican and Mexican-American history for Cinco de Mayo. For example, the Cross Cultural Center is putting on an event, Machismo and Marianismo: Gender Roles in the Latin@ Community, in building 7 (the ATL) from 5-7 p.m. on May 5.

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