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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Cesar Chavez day parties lack reverence

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Yessenia Funes

The celebrations began Friday afternoon.

As soon as students finished classes, cars began blasting the J.Rabbit remix to The Champs’ “Tequila” with passengers wearing sombreros.

“Hmm, so this is a glimpse into Cesar Chavez Day,” I thought.

I’ve heard of him before, but New York doesn’t dedicate a day to Chavez. Kudos to California, Colorado and Texas for that.

As a woman born to Hispanic immigrants, I appreciate anyone who fights for their rights. But after talking to some people, I realized too many students don’t know who Chavez is or why California celebrates him.

Sunday afternoon, some college-aged kids invited some friends and I to a party. My friend asked if they knew who Chavez was and they said “no,” that it’s only an excuse to party.

And party Chico did.

Anyone wandering down Ivy Street Sunday afternoon would’ve seen front yards and porches full of drunk youth. Some wore sombreros and ponchos.

As someone who’s never experienced this holiday, the horror stories of racist costumes scared me a bit. Would I feel offended? Would I feel disrespected?

I’m not Mexican. My parents were born in El Salvador, but most people don’t know the difference. One classmate even asked what part of Mexico was El Salvador.

For those who are wondering, El Salvador is this teensy-weensy country in Central America, way south of Mexico.

Either way, a lot of non-Hispanics tend to group all Latin American countries. Surprisingly, the sombreros didn’t offend me.

People wore it for fun. I never would, but it was a part of what made this day fun for them. While many posters on campus remind students, “we’re a culture, not a costume,” the sombreros appeared harmless to me.

I didn’t check out the party scene much to witness the ponchos, but the idea offends me a bit. Mexicans don’t dress that way. Maybe mariachi bands do, but that’s a part of their show.

So while people thought it would be fun to wear these items, many didn’t find it necessary to educate themselves on the holiday.

Any Californian born around 1995 has experienced Cesar Chavez Day. How have students grown up with this holiday without knowing what he did?

I’m not an expert on Chavez myself, but I at least know the basics. Everyone should.

My first Cesar Chavez Day left me a little disappointed. Parties looked fun, but they’re not my scene. I still appreciated the day off.

Instead of drinking excessively and practicing ignorance, students should check out “Cesar Chavez,” a new movie that’s playing in theaters that tells his story.

I haven’t watched it yet and it hasn’t received the best ratings, but at least it’s educational.

This holiday should be more than tequila and parties. Even an outsider can see that.

Yessenia Funes can be reached at [email protected] or

@yessfun on Twitter.

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