Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner. We all have heard of this day, of course, and some of us have had more than our fair share of margaritas, guacamole, and tacos (Mmmm. Gimme all the tacos!) in the name of this holiday.
“Unfortunately, the holiday has been commercialized by the food and liquor industry and in the United States, Cinco de Mayo (similar to St. Patrick’s Day) has become an excuse to imbibe spirits and help Corona and Dos Equis beer companies improve their market share. Bars offer half-price margaritas and Tex-Mex fast-food chains see an increase in sales while sombreros and piñatas fly off the shelves of big-box party supply stores. Chicana/o youth are exposed to strong alcohol marketing campaigns with damaging stereotypes. Some groups have resisted, sponsoring Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo (Cinco de Mayo with Pride) celebrations. These nonalcoholic events focus on heritage and empowerment rather than on Mexican hat dances and drinking games.” ("Rethinking Cinco de Mayo")
“Mexican culture cannot be reduced to tacos, oversized sombreros and piñatas.”
So what IS Cinco de Mayo, and what is it NOT? And why can this day be harmful if we aren’t mindful of our actions.
Teaching Tolerance encourages us to “Teach [our students] what Cinco de Mayo is—and what it is not. Teach them the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. They need to know where the line is. Cultural appropriation occurs when a person or other entity—a sports franchise, for example—claims as their own an aspect of a culture that does not belong to them. Doing so can, knowingly or unknowingly, deny the authenticity of that culture, particularly if it belongs to a marginalized group, and it can send harmful messages rooted in misinformation, prejudice and stereotypes.”
“Let’s change the narrative on Cinco de Mayo and Mexico by teaching our students the facts.”
How about we clear up one common misconception up right away? Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day celebration. Mexico celebrates their independence on September 16th.
"Cinco de Mayo is the day in 1862 when a small, largely outnumbered group of Mexican soldiers took on an invading French army, who came to take over Mexico City, at the Battle of Puebla--and won! General Ignacio Zaragoza and his troops inspired Union soldiers who were fighting in the American Civil War. These Union soldiers celebrated with parades, folklórico dancers, bull fights and traditional music honoring the Mexican soldiers and people." If you want even more specifics click here: The Historically Accurate Way to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
Take time to teach your students the rich history of Mexico and help to de-bunk some of the myths and stereotypes of Mexican/Mexican-Americans.
“Teach them about the Grito de Dolores (Cry of Dolores) and how Mexico asserted its independence on September 16, 1810. Teach them about Mexico’s ancient civilizations, including those that built enormous pyramids and used hieroglyphs to create calendars. Teach them about the long history of struggle in Mexico, a country that has been at war many times to protect its land and its people from conquistadors and the politics of Manifest Destiny. Teach your students about the rich, multifaceted culture that thrives in the different regions of Mexico, and the scientists, activists, artists and change makers who hail from this country.”
While this day is important in Mexico, it’s actually celebrated more here in the United States than in Mexico. No one in Mexico is getting the day off of work or school, for example. If anyone in Mexico celebrates the day in a big way, it’s likely the city of Puebla. But just because Mexico doesn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo in a big way like we do, it’s still a good opportunity to celebrate Mexican American culture.
So celebrate! Enjoy all the delicious food and drinks you can get your hands on from local, family-owed places that are celebrating. After all, there are some pretty great food deals out there if you really know how to look. (I know one restaurant with amazing, authentic, Mexican food here in the Des Moines area, El Fogon, that happens to be co-owned by a colleague in DMPS. They are intentional about handing out/having information on tables about the true history of Cinco de Mayo.) But remember, always be respectful (i.e. don’t wear sombreros, mustaches, ponchos, carry maracas, etc). One event to consider attending is the Cinco de Mayo Celebration in Valley Junction (See the Community Events tab) to enjoy Mexican foods, artwork, live music, dancing and family activities. They will be celebrating the Mexican heritage of many railroad workers during the establishment years of Valley Junction. This festival is an opportunity to recognize the Mexican community who helped James Jordan (a settler in 1846 who founded Valley Junction) and his vision of bringing the railroad to the Des Moines area so it could become a reality. In honor of their strong heritage, they will also present a proclamation and announcement of their Cinco de Mayo King and Queen.
If you want to be a part of something BIG, drive an hour west to Omaha, where you’ll find the BIGGEST Cinco de Mayo celebration in the Midwest
Do any of you have good resources to share about this day? (If so, send them my way and I’ll get them added to the “Resources” page) Have you considered asking your students if their families celebrate Cinco de Mayo? If so, what do they do on this day? I wonder if your Mexican/Mexican-American students know about the history of this holiday? So often we assume our students of a particular race/ethnicity know everything about “their home country” but keep in mind, they are socialized too and see all the images, good and bad. You could have some really empowering conversations with your classes around this day and uplift the Mexican community while instilling pride in your Mexican/Mexican-American students.
By: Echo Gates
Hello everyone! I am writing the blog post this week to give an over view of what I learned at the White Privilege Conference over Spring Break. While there were many things that I took away I am going to share just a few of the “gold nuggets” that I took away. One thing that the “hype” guy in the morning (because 8 am on Spring Break was a tad early) said as a group of students got off the stage was, “Our students have voices, we just need to give them the chance, space, and empowerment to use it.” This was something that I thought was very interesting and really challenging. I found myself questioning if the things I am doing in the classroom are empowering my students to use their voice or stifling it?
The next thing I am going to talk about was my all-day institute that I took part in. The title of the session was, “Teaching While White.” This session focused on how teachers, specifically white teachers need to be aware of their own implicit biasis that may come into the classroom as well as those of our students. The session started with talking about us first. In order to become an ally, we need to be aware what biases we are bringing to the situation and do work on us first. They recommended talking this test (https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html) to see what those may be. Once you are aware you are more likely to make a change.
“A consistent predictor of academic success
is teacher expectation.”
The two ladies that ran this session have a blog that they post to (where you can access podcasts, articles and many more wonderful things), a Twitter, and a Facebook page. Check out their blog here: teachingwhilewhite.org/blog and find more links to their resources on the "Podcasts and People to Follow" page. This session was packed full of wonderful things that were said and shared. A statement that really has stuck with me is, “A consistent predictor of academic success is teacher expectation.” We as classroom teachers need to make sure our expectations are the same for EVERY STUDENT that comes in the door. I assume some of you reading are saying in your head, “they are the same, so what do you mean.” This goes back to knowing yourself and those implicit thoughts and feelings you may have and not even be aware of. When you are not aware you can not change. Another thing that the ladies talked about is how sometimes in our classrooms things come up that we as teachers need to get the whole story of or that are a sensitive subject and we need to set up that conversation. When this happens, they mentioned having a response ready to use so our students know we WILL address it at another time. They suggested saying “I’ve heard it, I’ve marked it, and I will address it.” These three little statements then let our students know that what is happening in the room has been heard and that when time allows you will come back to it. After this statement is made we then as the teacher NEED to come back to it. Sitting on the statement or the action and doing nothing may come across to the students it offended that we do not care, and we must stand up for them! We must be an ally and make sure that those students in our rooms know it will not be tolerated.
Finally, a blog post that Teaching While White posted in January entitled, “What if Being Called “Racist” Is The Beginning Not the End, of the Conversation? Learning What it Really Means to be A White Teacher” has some very good insights. This particular post is from January, but I encourage you to read through some of their other posts as well-- SO MANY other great reads along the way! An overview of the post is that a white female teacher put herself in situations that involved race and then when it was brought to her attention she did not address it. This happens in classrooms all over. So what if when we are called racist by our students we explore that with them what was done to make them feel that way -->ask them what needs to change. Doing this not only allows us to have conversations with our students and to hear them out. It also allows us to be real which in turn allows them the space to be real with us. It also provides us with a learning opportunity and a chance to change what we can in regards to our biases. There is so much more that I could write and I have MANY notes! Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have questions! Thank you, Echo