Cinco de Mayo: Cultural appreciation or appropriation?

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It’s that time of the year to bring out folklorico dresses, botas, and tejanas because Cinco de Mayo is still fresh in our minds. But before it can be celebrated for its rightful meaning, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the history of the holiday.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War that took place from 1861 to 1867.

This memorable day, not to be confused with Mexican Independence Day, is celebrated all around the world using various traditions. Mexico, especially the town of Puebla, hosts large parades featuring many colorful costumes.

Here at the Islands, students and staff have their own Cinco de Mayo traditions and opinions on the holiday.

Senior Jose Ramirez shared that to him Cinco de Mayo is very important because “it shows the rich history Mexico has.”

Ramirez is one of the few who celebrate this holiday with a get-together. He added, “We have carne asada, usually accompanied with flautas. We celebrate with family and friends.”

These family gatherings bring lots of joy to everyone and are very common among the Mexican culture.

Though Cinco de Mayo is a well-known holiday, there are also many individuals who do not celebrate this special day. Spanish teacher Ms. Rocio Favela is aware that Cinco de Mayo is “commemorated because the Mexican army wasn’t that strong back then and thus having a victory to the French was a big event for the country.”

She says that though it is not necessarily important to her, it is important historically and reassures that she clarifies the difference it shares between the independence of Mexico to her classes.

Often, Cinco de Mayo is misunderstood as just another day to eat tacos, but it holds so much more meaning. Ms. Favela believes that the history of Cinco de Mayo should be taught better.

“If people celebrate it, they should at least have an idea of what is it that they’re celebrating,” she said.

Ramirez also brought up a strong point of how the understanding of Cinco de Mayo can diminish common stereotypes about Mexican people.

He urges that “we need to show that many Latinos are hard-working and dedicated” and suggests “that celebrating one’s history is important for the future!”

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Cinco de Mayo: Cultural appreciation or appropriation?