Credit: Julie Johnson/ Unsplash

Skip the Sombrero: How to Talk to Your Kids About Cultural Appropriation

by | April 27, 2019

Cinco de Mayo, also known as the 5th of May, is a celebration of a Mexican victory against an overall failed French invasion which was officially won on May 5, 1862. Contrary to common belief, it is not Mexico’s Independence Day. The fight for independence began with the Grito de Dolores and it is celebrated on September 16th every year, commemorating the cry of Dolores which had commenced Mexico’s war against Spain in order to gain independence.

Culturally, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated not throughout Mexico, but for the most part only in Puebla (where the battle took place) and in the United States. Unfortunately, appropriating cultures remains a big problem in the United States when it comes to this holiday (and other culturally-based holidays).

As a woman of Mexican descent, I’m asking you to please put down the cheap sombrero from Party City and to cut back on putting your family in culturally-insensitive “costumes” on the day. Bringing awareness, about what cultural appropriation is, to your family (not only on Cinco de Mayo but especially around Halloween when there is a shocking amount of borderline racist “costumes”) is a great way to open the dialogue about the difference between appropriation and admiration of cultures that may be different than yours. Want to know more about how to do this? Keep reading to find out more.

Cultural Appropriation
Credit: Tim Mossholder/ Unsplash

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Skip the Sombrero: How to Talk to Your Kids About Cultural Appropriation

Historically speaking, it’s important to understand that the reason appropriating other people’s culture is so harmful to those (especially children) who grow up as a minority. From personal experience, I will say that having the same people who would belittle me and make racist remarks because I was Mexican only for me to later witness them “celebrating” Cinco de Mayo with unauthentic Mexican food and by wearing thick, black fake mustaches to school was harmful and very destructive as a young girl. It made it really hard for me to embrace my identity as a young brown woman growing up and the negative effects of experiencing cultural appropriation are still unfortunately present today.

As an example, you can see below what I mean by culturally insensitive and racist “costumes.” Unfortunately, these are still very common and are almost always not worn by those of the Mexican culture.

Please don’t dress your child like this on Cinco de Mayo
Credit: Your Little Lovely/ Amazon

Talk to your children about the history behind Cinco de Mayo, and why you and your family may or may not be celebrating. Show the difference between appreciating a culture (learning language, eating veganized takes on traditional food, supporting Mexican-owned businesses) and appropriating one (practicing ignorance and insensitivity towards cultural norms). Having this conversation can make your children more compassionate and culturally-aware people in the long-run.

Here are three culturally sensitive things you can do if you feel the need to celebrate Cinco de Mayo:

Go to an AUTHENTIC Mexican restaurant

Please don’t go to Chipotle or El Torito on Cinco de Mayo if you’re craving Mexican food, instead go to small, independently owned Mexican restaurants to get your family’s plant-powered fix. If you’re in Los Angeles, my favorite plant-based Mexican restaurant is Gracias Madre.

Jackfruit tacos at Gracias Madre
Credit: travelpockets/ Instagram

Explore YouTube for Traditional Mexican recipes to try at home

Ditch the taco kits and guacamole mix and use the wonderful word of the internet to explore veganized versions of traditional Mexican cuisine! On YouTube, you can find everything from vegan pozole rojo with jackfruit to one of my all-time favorites, chilaquiles.

Watch a movie about historical or cultural Mexican icons

Credit: Carlos Santana/ Instagram

Sit down with the family (of course, be sure to determine which movies may or may not be age-appropriate!) and take a short history lesson on Mexican culture by exploring some of the most well-known symbols in our culture including César Chávez, Carlos Santana, Frida Kahlo and Selena Quintanilla, to name a few.

To conclude, this isn’t to say that you can’t enjoy delicious tequila or listen to Banda on Cinco de Mayo, this is only a friendly reminder to be mindful in your approach to appreciating a culture instead of appropriating it. As a general rule of thumb, please remember that if what you are doing in regards to possibly culturally-insensitive actions are questionable to you, they may not be best to carry-out. Happy celebrating!

How do you talk to your children about Cinco de Mayo and cultural appropriation? Will you be celebrating this year? Let me know in the comments below.

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Gabriella Anaya

News Editor | Limoges, France | [email protected]

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Comments

9 Responses to “Skip the Sombrero: How to Talk to Your Kids About Cultural Appropriation”

  1. John Thomas
    May 1st, 2019 @ 4:48 am

    Alternatively, you could have stayed in Mexico and avoided people who are allegedly ruining your life through ‘cultural appropriation’? Why are you so desperate to live in the United States? What’s wrong with Mexico?

  2. Gale Feldman
    May 1st, 2019 @ 11:09 pm

    Good article – so important to talk, and keep talking to our children about cultural appropriation and how to avoid being a culture-vulture. It’s sometimes a difficult to navigate, but many of us are learning along with our children. I appreciate articles that help to reinforce this.

    The author suggested going to a Mexican-owned, authentic restaurant if someone really has to do something on American-appropriated Cinco de Mayo.The one thing I’d add is that it’s important to do one’s homework when choosing a business or restaurant that doesn’t appropriate and profit from other cultures. It can be a little exhausting, but sometimes, it’s just a quick search on a website. For example, Tamara’s Tamales in MDR – while not totally vegan, their focus in on healthy with a vegan and vegetarian portion of the menu. Tamara has made tamales since she was seven years old on Saturdays at her abuelita’s church, Our Lady of Guadalupe in ELA. Tamara is wonderful and it feels great supporting her business.

    Conversely, Gracias Madre in West Hollywood (the one recommended by the author) is owned by the white couple who run the Cafe Gratitude chain along with a white executive chef and a white “beverage director” – in other words, white owners and all white executive staff. In addition to having all sorts of other issues (forcing their employees into cultish-like classes at great expense to the employee and slaughtering cows on their farm even as they promote veganism as a healthy life choice), they’re quite upfront in their story about visiting the Mexican families of their employees and were inspired by their family’s recipes (aka stole them) – which they brought to their new business. Yuck.

  3. Joshua Schmidt
    May 2nd, 2019 @ 8:31 am

    I have no idea what this has to do with being Vegan

  4. Austin Slootmaker
    May 2nd, 2019 @ 8:32 am

    I did not know that cinco de mayo was not independence and that most of mexico are vegans that is news to my ears

  5. Austin Slootmaker
    May 2nd, 2019 @ 8:38 am

    I am commenting on the comment ¨The author suggested going to a Mexican-owned, authentic restaurant if someone really has to do something on American-appropriated Cinco de Mayo.The one thing I’d add is that it’s important to do one’s homework when choosing a business or restaurant that doesn’t appropriate and profit from other cultures¨. this has really spoke to me and when i go to mexico i will surely try it.

  6. Allen
    May 2nd, 2019 @ 2:27 pm

    that people who hate meat because they feel bad for animals that god put on this earth for a reason for man/woman to eat.

  7. Brynna G.
    May 2nd, 2019 @ 5:51 pm

    The definition of Cultural appropriation in this article is “practicing ignorance and insensitivity towards cultural norms”. But this definition is article wrong, it portrays appropriation as a negative thing while in many ways is a good thing as well. Cultural appropriation allows one country to take a culture of celebration and make it there own. To be buying fake sombreros and eating fake Mexican food is considered to be culturally insensitive then the sensitive people of that culture must be very weak. Who gets offended over a person eating food and celebrating? Who are you to tell them that they must not dress or composite themselves in a certain way? If there are these rules constantly surrounding people, then soon the people will be afraid to celebrate or dress up as someone else. How is the world supposed to create new things and adopt new meanings if we have to abide by non-offending rules? After all the definition of appropriation is not negative at all, it is the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission. But the Mexican culture is not copyrighted and it’s not racist for Americans to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, after all, we are a giant melting pot. It’s stupid to have to abide by someone’s rules just because they get offended that you are not the right ethnicity. Telling people to focus on the right clothing and food over simply celebrating Mexico’s win over the French just seems to forget about the holiday, and makes us focus on being offensive.

  8. Brynna G.
    May 2nd, 2019 @ 6:45 pm

    The definition of Cultural appropriation in this article is “practicing ignorance and insensitivity towards cultural norms”. But this definition is wrong, it portrays appropriation as a negative thing while in many ways is a good thing as well. Cultural appropriation allows one country to take a culture of celebration and make it there own. To be buying fake sombreros and eating fake Mexican food is considered to be culturally insensitive then the sensitive people of that culture must be very weak. Who gets offended over a person eating food and celebrating? Who are you to tell people that they must not dress or compose themselves in a certain way? If there are these rules constantly surrounding people, then soon the people will be afraid to celebrate or dress up as someone else. How is the world supposed to create new things and adopt new meanings if we have to abide by non-offending rules? After all the definition of appropriation is not negative at all, it is the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission. But the Mexican culture is not copyrighted and it’s not racist for Americans to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, after all, we are a giant melting pot. It’s stupid to have to abide by someone’s rules just because they get offended that you are not the right ethnicity. Telling people to focus on the right clothing and food over simply celebrating Mexico’s win over the French just seems to forget about the holiday, and makes us focus on being offensive.

  9. Will
    January 17th, 2020 @ 4:25 am

    Wearing a sombrero and poncho isn’t anywhere close to offensive. Only weak-minded people get offended over a non-hispanic wearing a sombrero.

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