A Chicana’s take on Cinco De Mayo


Photo of a mural in front of the local restaurant “La Cocina Economica”, taken on May 3, 2023.

Following Cesar Chavez Day, and with Cinco de Mayo around the corner, I find myself reminiscing about an odd memory.

It was a hot spring day in early May. I was serving water at the Los Angeles Country Club as a busser.

‘‘Hola ¿Cómo estás?”

A wealthy middle-aged white man asked me ecstatically as I placed the water down in front of him. He smiled eagerly behind his newspaper.

“I am doing good, how are you?” I replied.

That eager smile quickly turned into an expression of confusion after I responded.

“Good…You don’t speak Spanish?”

“No I’m sorry I don’t”

He began questioning why my skin is darker, if my parents are from here and if they speak other languages. For some reason he could not wrap his head around the idea that just because my skin is darker than his, that I am not too different from him. 

Like most socially constructed terms, the use of Pan-ethnic terms seems to create a mold not everyone fits in to. The media can also be partially held responsible for this mold of stereotypes. A mold that I clearly could not identify with at the Country Club.

I am a proud Chicana, navigating the world with eyes on both sides of the American and Hispanic spectrum.

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday not celebrated in Hispanic culture. The holiday is mainly celebrated in the United States or regionally in the state of Puebla, Mexico where the battle occurred.

It marked a small victory in the battle against France in 1862. The French had an army of 6,000 whereas the Mexican military only had 2,000. Although this is not a significant victory, it was one that brought hope and motivation to the Mexican army fighting for their independence.

Now as these holidays come around, I continuously find myself spiraling from these topics. I have a plate full of stereotypes in front of me that only others seem to enjoy. Picking at it I can’t help but wonder why out of 363 days of the year Hispanic/Latinos are constantly discriminated against.

There is a lack of funding in education in schools with more students of color, higher police brutality rates amongst Black and Hispanic people and disproportionately high incrimination rates as well. Thousands of families have been separated by the Trump administration and thousands lost by the Biden administration. Both presidents came into office with plans on reforming immigration laws, but this effort has only seemed to make it worse for Hispanics in the United States.

Now don’t get me wrong, my family, friends, and I love a good old traditional fiesta. It’s always a great time to bring us all together. I don’t mind the thought of others celebrating at all. It only becomes a problem when others celebrate a holiday with cultural appropriation props and are offensive towards others.  

There are many ways to celebrate the event without encouraging stereotypes, even within a classroom. There are also definitely ways not to celebrate. Let’s take a look at the 2017 case at Baylor University in Texas. A fraternity arranged an event called “Cinco De Drinko,” where students dressed up in sombreros, ponchos, maid and construction worker outfits. According to the Washington Post a bartender reportedly showed up in brownface make up.

Moving forward, let’s celebrate the festivity in an appropriate way. There are tons of do’s and don’ts we can take in mind when celebrating the occasion.


  • We can celebrate by acknowledging the brave lives lost that day
  • Supporting local Hispanic businesses
  • Share the history
  • Of course enjoy a margarita or two with friends. 
  • Raise awareness about bigger political issues 
  • Donate to organizations trying to protect Hispanics from deportation, better Hispanic education and debunk stereotypes


  • Do not wear offensive costumes 
  • Don’t encourage stereotyping
  • It might not be a good idea to freshen up on the high school Spanish you learned. 
  • Don’t paint your face to resemble having darker skin
  • Don’t use the holiday as an excuse to get extremely drunk, remember we are celebrating the brave lives that were lost
  • Don’t cause violence or harass others 

Overall I hope we can move forward in creating a safe space for others no matter the differences in culture. May we join together and celebrate in a welcoming environment for everyone.