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How To Be Respectful On Cinco de Mayo, Because It's A Cultural Celebration

by Keiko Zoll

Thursday marks the Cinco de Mayo holiday for the Mexican community and now is as good a time as any for a refresher on how to be respectful on Cinco de Mayo. First of all, let's clear up a common misconception: Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day — that falls on Sept. 16 — rather, Cinco de Mayo celebrates a key victory by the Mexican Army against the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Cinco de Mayo is a chronically misunderstood holiday, and not just in the United States — but we can do our part to change that.

To be clear, I'm not saying you shouldn't celebrate Cinco de Mayo because it's not the "PC" thing to do. It's not a matter of being "PC" — it's really about using common sense, like having enough common sense to not use cultural stereotypes as a means of honoring or celebrating a culture. I'm also not saying you have to be Mexican to celebrate or appreciate Cinco de Mayo — but if you aren't Mexican or have no connection to the holiday at all, then don't be an insensitive dolt about how you celebrate it. Here are a few ways to be more sensitive on Cinco de Mayo, because it doesn't exist just so people can drink tequila.


Stop Calling It "Cinco de Drinko"

Yes — this is a thing people say. No, "drinko" is not some clever Spanish word for beverage, either. "Cinco de Drinko" is anything but clever or witty: It's just dumb. And perhaps indicative of some repressed alcoholism. Cinco de Mayo is more than just drinking margaritas until you can't see straight, or tossing back shots of tequila. Culturally significant holiday, remember?


Just Avoid Any Fake Spanish Vocab For That Matter

Building off of the point above, Cinco de Mayo does not give anyone permission to suddenly start prefacing everything with "el" and ending every word with "-o" in some lame attempt to fashion together some kind of Spanish-esque phrasing. "Drinko" is not a word and you are not "El Drunko." Just — just don't. It's embarrassing for everyone involved.


Don't Confuse Casual Racism For Celebration

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We live in an age where we tread a fine line of cultural appreciation versus cultural appropriation: There's a big difference between paying homage to someone or something or just outright mocking them. Sombrero parties for Cinco de Mayo? Yeah, those fall squarely in the "cultural appropriation" category. Brownface is just as offensive and wrong as blackface and yet you'll still see plenty of Cinco de Mayo party invites encouraging partygoers to sport their best sombrero, serape, and mustache ensembles. Yeah... that's just encouraging brownface. Don't do it.


Let's #ReclaimCinco Instead

I've presented a lot of don'ts here — but there are plenty of dos that can make Cinco de Mayo a fun, celebratory experience without having to make use of stereotypes. There's a very real movement to #ReclaimCinco across social media in an effort take Cinco de Mayo back from embarrassing examples of cultural appropriation. From educating yourself to giving back to issues important to the Latino community, it's totally possible to celebrate Cinco de Mayo responsibly and respectfully.