The Cinco de Mayo “cultural appropriation” warnings begin

May 5, 2018 • 10:45 am

At many sites, including the Spokane (Washington state) newspaper The Spokesman Review, there are reports that a Vice President of Gonzaga University (a Jesuit school in Spokane) sent out an email to students warning them against cultural appropriation and inappropriate celebration on Cinco de Mayo (today), a day that often serving as an excuse for Mexican-themed parties with boozing. Here’s the VP’s email, which appears at Campus Reform:

The Unity Multicultural Center is in fact a Gonzaga University organization. On their Facebook page cited by Vice President Garbuio, you’ll find this list of dictates, including the last one suggesting donations to a social-justice organization. Your’e also supposed to call out your friends if they don’t celebrate with proper respect:

More from the Spokesman:

After Ben McDonald, a Gonzaga student, penned a story about the email for Red Alert Politics, a horde of other popular conservative websites, including the Daily Wire, followed suit.

“Colleges have become havens for the easily offended on campuses across the nation to complain about people enjoying themselves as being ‘offensive to their culture,’ ” McDonald wrote. “Whether it was Yale students getting offended for Halloween costumes or Pitzer College students saying that hoop earrings are racist, Gonzaga is just the next addition to the many other universities who have caved in the face of ‘cultural appropriation.’ ”

Biggs Garbuio told The Spokesman-Review she was surprised to see so many websites sound off on her email. She said she wrote a similar email a year ago and annually sends emails during Halloween about avoiding racially insensitive costumes.

“The intent was purely to educate the students on the history of Cinco de Mayo,” she said. [JAC: No it wasn’t; it was mainly to control their behavior.]

After seeing some schools across the country dealing with the backlash of cultural appropriation in party settings, Biggs Garbuio said she wanted to get ahead of the issue.

Now don’t get me wrong.  There are ways to celebrate the date that are inappropriate and offensive, at least to me: these include wearing fake mustaches or anything that mocks Mexico or Mexicans. Serapes and sombreros are a judgement call; I sure as hell wouldn’t wear one, but you can wear them without the intent of making fun of Mexicans. They are, after all, clothing worn by some Mexicans, and wearing them might be a celebratory rather than a denigrating move, like wearing green on St. Patrick’s day. (Believe me, lots of Chicago-ans without Irish ancestry wear green top hats and bow ties on St. Paddy’s Day—clothing not even worn by the Irish.)

What I object to is that a university takes it upon itself to give students cultural lessons, and even suggest donating to immigrants’ right organizations. That’s something a good liberal would do anyway, but it’s not a college’s function to police your behavior in this way. Let the students learn for themselves if they overstep boundaries, and where those boundaries lie and why.

This all reminds me of Erika Christakis’s response at Yale to an email from the Intercultural Affairs Committee telling students to dress in non-offensive ways on Halloween. Christakis, a housemaster at the university, wrote students an email saying that perhaps they themselves should decide appropriate dress rather than be dictated to by others. Well, you know what happened to her: she was demonized and ultimately hounded out of her job and Yale itself. What happened to her was unconscionable. So let me play Christakis to Gonzaga: Vice President Biggs Garbuio, stop telling students what “cultural appropriation” is and how to behave properly. Don’t police them; let them learn for themselves.

When I was in India at Christmas, there were many parties at which Hindu citizens celebrated the holiday by drinking and dancing. I even met a Santa Claus who was most likely not a Christian but a Hindu (see here). Would Gonzaga write a note to Hindu students, telling them to knock off the revelries at Christmas because, after all, it is a religious holiday celebrating an event sacred to Christians? I doubt it.

For other Pecksniffian policing of the holiday, see here, here, and here.

40 thoughts on “The Cinco de Mayo “cultural appropriation” warnings begin

  1. If I was young I would say: “I can’t even”.

    But I’m old and it would be cultural appropriation for me to utter such a thing.

  2. I am offended at the name Gonzaga University. It’s a cultural appropriation of gonzo journalism. 😜🤯

  3. That was a pretty mild email, I think. They didn’t send it with the suggestions, just the link in case the student wanted to go find out on their own, no? I mean, it could have been shorter (I’m a fan of ‘don’t be an asshole’).

  4. However, weren’t the Jesuits big proponents of syncretic Christianity? Cultural appropriation of the worst kind, really.

    1. IMO, some of the world’s most successful religions (Islam, Christianity and Buddhism) owe their successes to syncretism. (Which is a form of cultural appropriation.)

  5. How about a Zorro movie marathon?? 🙂

    BTW, although Chipotle was founded by a non-Mexican, many Mexicans work there or patronize it!!

    However, Chipotle has a known history of food safety violations, including a hepatitis outbreak, an E. coli outbreak and a Salmonella outbreak. All of these and more were traced to a particle Chipotle restaurant. So that’s why I won’t go there today.

    (Yes, serapes and moustaches should be off limits, as well as singing the Frito Bandito song, etc.)

    1. Why should serapes be off limits? Because wearing one might be offensive to the descendants of the people who copied the idea from Native Americans?

      1. Moreover, -if I’m not mistaken- most serapes and ponchos are made by Mayans in Guatemala, subsisting on their export. So I’d say: “Support poor Mayans and buy as many serapes and ponchos as you can or will!”. Note that ponchos are very practical, useful pieces of clothing when it is cold and dry.

  6. Excuse me, I had to puke first at the very idea of “cultural appropriation.” Maajid Nawaz has a good rant on the subject in which he warns that the end result of buying this nonsense is that we all go back to bad old segregation. And I think he’s right.

    Anyway, I am part French and wouldn’t celebrate the silly holiday anyway, other than if I wanted some excuse to go out and get drunk, which I don’t. 😛

      1. Well, apparently I missed that one this year. 🙂
        My favorite battle is one that happened in an area called La Providencia near the Cahuenga Pass. It was part of an attempt by Californians (including both Anglos and Mexicans) to gain independence from Mexico. There were still cannonballs being recovered back in the 1930s in the area. And no one was killed, except I think a horse or donkey. My kind of battle.

    1. Just don’t go into a Mexican bar on Cinco de Mayo and order a napoleon. 🙂

      And yes, as a cocktail, it (probably) should not be capitalized, cf.: manhattan.

  7. For what it’s worth, the entire holiday is one for the military, the Mexican military, the militia. Almost Alamo-like, outnumbered, unprofessional, green militia men repulsed a better equipped French force to forestay an eventual conquest. Truly a David and Goliath contest, except no supernatural cheating!

    1. Yes, a remarkable but ultimately futile military victory. My understanding is that it is more celebrated in the U.S. than in Mexico, mostly by people who just know it as an excuse to drink, but have no idea of its origins.

      1. Yeah, Cinco de Mayo isn’t celebrated in Mexico like it is here. Their big celebration is Día de la Independencia…Independence day, Sept. 16th.

  8. At Gonzaga, I wonder if the Jesuits celebrate syncretic Christianity with Synchro de Mayo? Or maybe that holiday is meant for manual transmission cars.

  9. I get that people *could* act in an offensive or inappropriate manner on cinco de mayo. But it’s kind of a bizarre assumption that they necessarily will.

    I used to live in a community with a large Mexican-American population, and to judge by CDM celebrations, Mexican-Americans celebrated just as hard as everyone else, even though the day isn’t a big deal in Mexico.

    I also met a man from Mexico who was genuinely curious about how the holiday is celebrated here, and came down the neighborhood just to see the festivities.


      Cinco de Mayo is a much bigger deal in the U.S. (especially the west coast) than Mexico.
      Mexico has had so many revolutions to celebrate. I read about more than I can remember at the various museums I went to in Mexico. My favorite memory of Cinco de Mayo was at Foothill Community College in the 70s with hispanic music, costumes and dancing and no booze. It was a joy to me to see the young fathers and mothers dancing with their children.

      The “cultural appropriation” aspect of this holiday seems similar to the kerfuffle about a Utah teenaged female wearing a Chinese dress. (Now, if it had been a male?!!)

  10. On my recent trip to the USofA I bought a pair of cowboy boots (well, I was in Texas). Does that count as cultural appropriation?

  11. I think someone needs to form a band called ‘Cultural Appropriation’, preferably but not necessarily made up of a diverse group of members. The group can then satirize cultural appropriation by dressing up in different cultural garbs to perform classic songs by that culture, then do a costume change to perform songs from a different culture, etc. The idea would be to celebrate diversity, but point out how silly the idea of complaining is.

    1. Well, there is this: Mexico by Alestorm. Would this go down well on a US campus?

      “Yo ho Mexico
      Far to the south where the cactus grow
      Tequila and a donkey show
      Mexico, Mexico
      Yo ho Mexico
      Far to the south where the cactus grow
      Take me away from the ice and the snow
      Let’s go to Mexico”

      1. Thank you for this music! Let these guys appropriate us all they want!

        And we, in turn, are appropriating all kinds of German music…Bach, Beethoven, et cetera…

    2. It might be still more effective if the songs themselves reflect some sort of cultural appropriation. One of my “Jewish background” friends likes pointing out that many Christmas songs were written by Jews, to pick one example.

  12. But feel free to do ridiculous things on St Patrick’s Day and say denigrating things like calling booze “Irish flu shots” because the Irish are just white and white is bad.

  13. I’m Mexican (born in Mexico City and living in Guadalajara, México, since I was 5).

    We really don’t care. Cultural appropriation is not a thing here, or in any developing country, as far as I know. Besides, we ourselves appropriate plenty of stuff from the US (sports, music, movies, literature, outfits, etc.) and nobody here thinks twice about it. As far as 5 de Mayo sepecifically, we don’t even get the day off anymore when it falls on a weekday. We do have our equivalent of the Regressive Left here, and even they don’t care.

  14. As pointed out on earlier threads there is something like cultural appropriation, such as eg. a pharmaceutical company appropriating a traditional tribal drug, and making a lot of money out of that, without sharing with the tribe or group that discovered it.
    Of course, that is very far from the pecksniffing shown here or the Ms Daum ‘cultural appropriation’ idiocy.
    The Ctrl-left has succeeded (again!) to make a useful term virtually meaningless.

  15. The hectoring tone of that flyer (“shame on you”) is bad enough, but the scariest element is the totalitarian call to publicly denounce non-conformists: “Oh, and hold your friends accountable when they do any – or all – of these.”

    Note well: these self-appointed political kommissars don’t give a damn about actual Mexicans, only about exerting control over others.

  16. Why is that people will talk about cultural appropriation when they’re not even a member of the ‘offended’ group? In the case of the female student who wore a Chinese cheongsam to her prom, there was a lot of outrage, but many people, including Chinese people like myself, had no problem with her wearing the dress. Further, I can fight my own battles, thank you very much. I don’t need the SJWs having a hissy fit on my behalf.

  17. People who worry about cultural appropriation should also tell us about how to tell different cultural backgrounds apart. This is the same problem that the “clash of civilizations” thesis has, ironically.

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