Cinco de Mayo lands on a Saturday this year, the same day as the Kentucky Derby. The alignment of these two events have led a medley of New York City establishments to host mash-up “Cinco de Derby” parties, inviting doe-eyed attendees to get day drunk on margaritas and mint juleps while ignoring the Mexican holiday’s origins.
Cinco de Mayo is a celebration that commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862, but you wouldn’t know that by scrolling through your Instagram feed on Saturday. You are, however, sure to find a countless number of photos of fake mustaches, sombreros and inebriated individuals using the holiday as an excuse to passively mock Mexican culture. Cinco de Mayo, it seems, has evolved into what is arguably America’s most unfortunate day of cultural appropriation.
One of the most amazing things about living in the United States—and specifically New York—is that we can share in many cultural traditions that are not a part of our own lineage. It’s part of what makes the American experiment so unique. That said, if you’re treating Cinco de Mayo as a Mexican-themed Halloween party, this writer urges you to carefully reconsider your behavior.
In 2014, The Onion encapsulated this phenomenon in a video titled, “Hurricane Ashley Expected To Strike Several Bars This Cinco De Mayo.” We’ve all encountered an Ashley. She rocks a cartoonish sombrero. She throws down tequila shots while screaming “Odelay!” She treats the bar’s service workers like servants.
This Cinco de Mayo, don’t be an Ashley.
Don’t sport a poncho that you wouldn’t wear on any other chilly day of the year.
Don’t put on a foam sombrero.
Don’t draw or wear a fake mustache on your upper lip.
And if you inexplicably own maracas, do not use them to impersonate a subway Mariachi band.
Do support Mexican-owned restaurants and bars across the five boroughs.
Do educate yourself on Mexican history and the Central American diaspora.
Do your best to celebrate cultures outside of your own, not ridicule them in the name of a “good time.”
Many Americans have a chronic disregard for history, and it’s disheartening. Cinco de Mayo is not, as many suspect, Mexico’s Independence Day. It’s not Día de Muertos. It’s a celebration of a resounding defeat of gringos in the country, and some of those same gringos’ descendants have somehow morphed the day into a celebration of all that is basic.
Avoiding Ashley-esque behavior should not be a hard sell. And if you glommed onto the 2013 trend of getting a “finger mustache tattoo,” I humbly advise you to keep that baby holstered on Saturday.