All the ways social media gets Cinco de Mayo wrong

As a social media producer at HelloGiggles, I spend the whole day staying on top of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Today is one of the days I dread the most. It’s Cinco de Mayo: the day that plenty of people use as an excuse for sharing racist, insensitive and offensive content on social media. As a Guatemalan woman, I cringe at each Cinco de Mayo tweet or Instagram post that reduces the day to drunken festivities. A large problem with these posts is that they also encourage stereotypes about Latino/Hispanic communities in general.

Social media channels can be a powerful way to amplify the voices of marginalized communities and create a virtual sense of community. But unfortunately, they can also be an easy way to propagate hateful — or just plain inaccurate — information about certain groups.

A quick primer: May 5 is actually not Mexican Independence Day. That’s September 16. May 5, 1862 actually marks the day that a French army was taken down by Mexican forces when they invaded Puebla.

But you rarely hear about any of that on May 5 as it rolls around each year. Cinco de Mayo comes with a spectrum of social media posts by individuals and brands alike. It’s telling that #CincoDeMayo is trending (promoted by Lime-A-Rita).

There are other hashtags, too: #cincodedrinko, #drinkodemayo, #mexicanfiesta. If you learned about Cinco de Mayo through social media only, you’d think it was about drinking and partying. Or it’s all about dressing up in items like sombreros (which you don’t see anyone else wearing during all the other 364 days of the year). Or mustaches (which apparently only Mexican people grow?). People are even dressing their dogs in cultural stereotypes. 

Somehow Cinco de Mayo is about piñatas. 

Otherwise, it’s all about the food — the food that supposedly represents Mexican culture. Snapchat got some criticism early on today after including a filter that turns users into tacos (thanks to Taco Bell).

But all this (almost) pales in comparison to this:

Cinco de Mayo shouldn’t be an opportunity to make sweeping generalizations about Hispanic cultures, either. And taco bowls have very little to do with Mexican culture.

So what’s a person to do on this dreadful day? Thankfully, the internet has provided us with some good alternatives to all the other racist, insensitive noise. Humor is a big one. 

Sharing anything that explains the real history behind the day helps educate and combat the ignorant social media noise. This helpful video by HuffPost LatinoVoices includes important facts — and highlights some of the most ridiculous Cinco de Mayo props out there. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying margaritas and guacamole today — so long as you enjoy them as you would any other day, not for the sake of joining the #drinkodemayo bandwagon.

Filed Under