Appreciation vs. Appropriation: Mexican Culture

By Asia Daggs
Web Content Manager

Before I get into any details, I want to point out that there is an important distinction between Hispanic or Latino heritages. Mexican or Mexican-American people are a native or inhabitant to Mexico, of Mexican descent and of Mexican and Native American descent. One of the biggest issues is the inconsiderate generalization that all Latino people are Mexican. Remember this.

A majority of appropriation dealing with Mexican heritage comes from the holidays that we celebrate, certain types or designs of clothing and, of course, stereotypical costumes. Cinco De Mayo and Day of the Dead are the two most popular holidays that seem to be mistaken as a nationwide excuse to get drunk. Halloween is basically the annual showcase for cultural appropriation. I am sure you have seen at least one gringo Cholo or a member of Mariachi band draped in a colorful, striped poncho with a sombrero and fake mustache.

Cinco De Mayo is meant for the celebration of the Mexican Army’s victory of Battle of Puebla against French forces in 1862. It is commonly mistaken for Mexico’s Independence Day and is even referred to as “Cinco De Drinko“. The holiday was “Americanized” with tons of drinking and the improper showcase of sombreros and Mexican flags. Just because the natives of Mexican heritage display their celebration a certain way, it is does not give just anybody the right to do the same.

@ThinkMexican via Twitter
@ThinkMexican via Twitter

Something new that came to my attention was the inappropriate use of sugar skulls. Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) takes place on Nov. 2 and is held to honor the lives of deceased family members and to help support their spiritual journey. Families will build small shrines and decorate it with calaveras, aztec marigolds and even the possessions or favorites of the deceased will be added. Calavera is the Spanish name for sugar skulls; they are created to represent the rebirth or the next stage in that person’s life. With that knowledge, it almost becomes common sense to why the appropriation is taken as very offensive.

“Many Atheists celebrate Christmas by exchanging gifts and they don’t go running into churches just to flip off a cross for shits and giggles… Imagine that, enjoying a holiday that isn’t for you without making a mockery of it!” – Ellie Guzman via byrslf.co

Mexican culture joins the club with the previous communities of people who have been oppressed or criminalized in one way or another. Once again, society loves to bite off of the culture, but treat the people as less equal. You do not have to have some deep understanding of the cultural history in order to eat at a Mexican restaurant or enjoy some margaritas. However, if you are wanting to celebrate inside of Mexican or Mexican-American culture just have some respect and be knowledgeable about the true meanings behind it.

Featured image by Jasmynne Flores.

Holly Henrichsen

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