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What Cinco de Mayo looks like from a Mexican perspective

I’ve got a bone to pick with “sink-o de mayo” and its racist overtones

Cecy Juárez is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.
Cecy Juárez is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

The notorious holiday of Cinco de Mayo is coming up on Wednesday, and I have a bone to pick with it. Soon enough, there will be gaudy sombreros and fake moustaches lining the shelves of party stores as we near this ridiculous holiday. 

Most American students’ experiences with the fifth of May have been pretty similar. We remember having those little “fiestas” in Spanish class in elementary and middle school with mini tacos and tacky sombreros. If you were lucky, you might’ve even continued some of those traditions in high school by watching a movie like “The Book of Life” or “Coco” during class — even though those movies are about el Dia de los Muertos, which takes place in the fall. But I digress. 

An important question to ask is — how many people really know what the “holiday” is about? Do people even know that, despite popular belief, it’s not even Mexico’s independence day? Has anyone bothered to learn when Mexico’s actual independence day is celebrated, or any of our history and traditions?

I’d like to take this opportunity to shed some light on this controversial holiday and discuss some of the issues that arise with it.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the day of a small battle between the people of Puebla against the French in the Franco-Mexican war in the 19th century. The problem is, it wasn’t even that epic of a fight. The Poblanos had a pretty meager defense against the French but were able to push them back. 

Yet, for some reason, this story has been literally lost in translation and blown out of proportion in the United States. Most people don’t even know that this is what Cinco de Mayo is supposed to be about. And most Mexicans don’t even celebrate it! It’s as if Mexico started an official national holiday celebrating the Battle of New Orleans on Jan. 8 — as a matter of fact, I know so little about this battle that I had to look it up. And to celebrate this pseudo-holiday, it would be as if they wore cowboy hats, fatsuits and ate McDonald’s cheeseburgers. 

I know what you’re thinking — “That sounds like a really dumb and stereotypical holiday.” And it is! But the truth is, that’s what Cinco de Mayo looks like from the perspective of a lot of Mexican citizens. It’s hurtful and demoralizing to see our culture degraded to a sleazy booze fest where people wear exaggerated moustaches, cheap ponchos and drink beer to “celebrate Mexican culture.” People entirely ignore the reasoning behind this “holiday” and just use it as an excuse to party and appropriate Mexican culture.

I think it’s time we reevaluate the way we view Cinco de Mayo and think twice before we go to Party City to buy a sombrero. If you really wanted to celebrate Mexican culture, you’d celebrate the start of Hispanic Heritage Month on Sept. 15 and follow with a party on Sept. 16 to commemorate Mexico’s independence day — without the racist attire, of course. 

If you really want to celebrate Mexican heritage, support Mexican small businesses! Feel free to drop by your local taqueria or any kind of Mexican-owned restaurant and experience authentic Mexican food. Try a new dish and step out of your comfort zone. Read up on Mexican history, including the various Indigenous civilizations that helped found the country like the Mayans and the Aztecs. Don’t appropriate the culture — learn to appreciate it.

The United States is an incredibly diverse country, no doubt about it. So, let’s be better about the way we celebrate all the wonderful cultures that exist in this country and work toward respecting our differences in a considerate way. 

Cecy Juárez is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at


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