Cinco De Mayo and Cultural Sensitivity

Cinco De Mayo, often mistakenly thought of as Mexico’s Independence Day, is Saturday and it seems like there’s some confusion as to how we should celebrate this holiday. Much like St. Patrick’s Day where people commemorate the event by drinking like the world is ending, Cinco De Mayo is observed in the same way but with tequila. But there is more to Mexican culture than tequila and sombreros.

Sombreros. Let’s talk about sombreros. I know that lots of high schools, universities and work places are asking that their students and/or employees show up in “Cinco De Mayo wear”. (Not quoting anyone specific, just paraphrasing.) What does that even mean, really? Does it mean dressing like this…:


From Partycity.com


…or this:




(Description from website: Hey amigo, this Mexican Costume is bound to be noticed! Hey Amigo Mexican Costume features a fringed poncho, long moustache, red trimmed sombrero and pants with an attached plush donkey and rider legs, which create the illusion that you’re riding said plush donkey...)

…or this?


(Check out this hot shot! Our Plus Size Sexy Shooter costume features a serape mini dress, belt with shot glass loops and bottle holster, 4 plastic shot glasses and a “TEQUILA” print sombrero. Ole!)

Is this outright offensive or do you think that’s being too politically correct? Even if you tone it down and don’t wear one of these “costumes” and just wear a sombrero is it okay or is it saying, “It’s May 5th, I’m going to wear this crazy hat!”?

Do you find this insensitive? How can one respect and truly celebrate Mexican culture on Cinco De Mayo? What do you think?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Natalie1085 Natalie Hernandez

    Cinceo de Mayo is not mexico’s independence day, simply a day when mexico defeated France in the Battle of Puebla….

  • http://www.facebook.com/ramou.sarr Ramou Sarr

    What’s problematic about the idea of celebrating Mexican culture on Cinco De Mayo is that a lot of people aren’t dressing up and going out for the purpose of celebrating Mexican culture; they’re doing it to get drunk. Part of what’s offensive is cloaking your intentions in cultural celebration. I’m not Mexican, so am not the best to speak on whether or not “dressing up Mexican” is offensive, although I’m leaning towards a big YES. Yes, it is offensive to portray Mexicans as sombrero wearing, donkey riding, tequila drinking drunken fools on Cinco de Mayo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6719268 Diana Padilla

    I find it culturally insensitive when cinco de mayo is mistakenly advertised as Mexican Independance Day, which is on September 16 and like in many countries it is an incredibly important day. Cinco de mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla and although it is recognized as a day of importance in Mexico, it certainly is not celebrated in the fashion that it’s celebrated in the U.S. I can appreciate your comments about how Americans have turned yet another cultural day into an excuse to party and wear offensive, stereotypical attire and agree that it’s exploiting a beautiful culture that deserves more serious recognition. However, please research the facts a bit before posting. P.S. those costumes are ridiculous! Can you people actually buy them?

    • http://www.facebook.com/almie.rose Almie Rose

      Yes and you can buy these costumes year ’round. :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1267638101 Ena Gutierrez

    Well I’m obviously Mexican but I hate being politically correct. People think it’s independence day but it’s not. The real party day in Mexico is September 16. In the U.S. we make out Cinco de Mayo to be much more than it really is. If people wanna dress up with ponchos and donkeys, more power to them. I honestly don’t care and am not offended. I know the main reason for people celebrating it here is because they want any excuse to get drunk.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gigi.austin.1 Gigi Austin

    I just find it funny that Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo more than Mexicans do. I don’t blame Mexicans, though, as Cinco de Mayo is not their independence day. (A quick look at Wikipedia will tell you that.) That day is in September, and celebrated much more heavily in Mexico.
    That being said, it does bother me that Mexicans are portrayed as sombrero-wearing drunks in the United States. This is an unrealistic stereotype.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001056772779 Sophie Del

      That´s actually true! as mexican we only take the holiday as vacations! It´s a little offensive that some people think Mexico is only desert and a place to go get drunk (Cabo San Lucas)

  • http://www.facebook.com/kelsey.taylor.9847 Kelsey Taylor

    This is really interesting! I live in California, and I don’t think it’s necessarily offensive to celebrate Cinco de Mayo (and I mean celebrate mostly by eating delicious Mexican food), but I do think those costumes are very offensive. People will use anything as an excuse to drink where I live, and exploit different countries’ stereotypes. I would love to ask Mexican-Americans and Mexicans how they feel about Americans celebrating Cinco de Mayo this way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/almie.rose Almie Rose

    Hi everyone — please forgive me, I did research and I meant to say “thought of as Americans as Mexican Independence Day” but I messed up and instead originally typed “Mexico’s independence day.” thankfully an addendum has been added to correct that mistake. Thanks to everyone for pointing it out! — Almie/Apocalypstick

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001213878998 Kristen Weber

      It’s ironic that this type-o was made in an article about cultural insensitivity. This has sparked quite the debate and has brought to light some interesting points. As an American, who is admittedly uneducated on the history of Cinco de Mayo and Mexican culture in general, it has been interesting to read these comments and learn more about the holiday and the opinions of some people who are insulted and some who are more apathetic about these stereotypes. I, for one, am more educated BECAUSE this ‘type-o’ was made. So I thank you, Almie! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/samantha.collie Samantha Collie

    I find it no different than people dressing up in kilts and red wigs to pretend to be Scottish! (and drunk)

  • http://www.facebook.com/samantha.collie Samantha Collie

    “Sexy Asian”… “Irish Leprachaun” “Native American Warrior and/or Eskimo” “German Beer Stein Wielding Blonde chick” …the list goes ON. It’s just a fact, stereotypical costumes for every cultural exist.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=5136427 Ani Reina

      I think that’s the problem. That so many of them exist. What would it be like if we could “celebrate” a fictitious holiday without cultural insensitivity.

      To Mexican’s who do not have a problem with it: I think you are completely valid in your emotions, but so are the people who have been negatively affected through images like the ones above. It is a real thing, while I find it amazing that you have no encountered them, some do and we need to stick together to help each other out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=573141017 Kimberly Genice Peacock

    I’m Mexican and it doesn’t bother me one bit if people want to dress up or not. What does bother me is when people confuse Cinco de Mayo for being Mexican Independence Day…It’s not. I notice you fixed that mistake in your article. People just want an excuse to go out and drink margaritas which is fine by me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=621365346 Silvae Sánchez Presa

    Hi! I’m Mexican and let me tell you that we actually don’t celebrate 5 de mayo, people go to school and work like any other day… it was just a battle that was won and that’s it! I think people make a bigger deal out of it than we actually do! Our Independence Day is celebrated on September 16…

    I find kind of offensive, maybe not the customes but what they represent, the first tme I was in America people asked me where were my braids, and a friend of mine was in Spain and everybody where expecting him to be lazy and that he would carry a tequila bottle everywhere he went… that’s what I can find offensive.

    I hope people that celebrate 5 de mayo have fun and try to learn more about our culture (like día de muertos in November 2 that’s a great Holiday)

  • http://www.facebook.com/TRUCHAaaaa Stormaggedon Ozymandias

    Yep , another Mexican here!
    We do not celebrate 5 de Mayo !!!! Almost nobody in here remembers it. I have never realized the irony of people from a diferent country celebrating a Mexican history event. As for the costumes I would rather prefer Americans recognize this stereotipes are false and hurtful than making a not that important celebration

  • http://www.facebook.com/delfigax Delfina Gaxiola

    As a Mexican-American living in Arizona, I’m happy to see my culture being celebrated (albeit stereotypically) in a state fraught with anti-Mexican sentiment and unabashed racism. I’d rather have non-Mexicans drinking margaritas WITH me than pointing a shotgun AT me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scrabblemvp Ellen Lewis

    Guys, calm down. She said “often mistaken” about the independence day thing.
    Anyhoo, I know this is all meant to be silly fun, but it’s kind of amazing how culturally insensitive people still are. It’d make me feel kind of awkward if I was around someone who dressed up like this, kind of like how I feel when I watch any of the scenes in Breakfast At Tiffany’s with her Asian landlord.

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