Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner on May 5. This holiday is a great time to learn about and celebrate Mexican-American culture with your friends and family. But as you do, it’s important to be mindful that some common elements of Cinco de Mayo celebrations (or really any holidays centered around specific identities) might play into hurtful stereotypes. Here are a few tips and ideas to help you and your family respectfully celebrate holidays that are from a culture different than your own.
Remember the History of the Holiday
Did you know that Cinco de Mayo is not the celebration of Mexican Independence? That’s on September 16. Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May, commemorates the victory of Mexican forces over the French at the Battle of Puebla. When we’re celebrating cultural holidays, it’s important to understand why we’re celebrating. Take time with your family to learn the real history of Cinco de Mayo.
Make it Fun and Educational
Add a little learning to your festivities. A few interactive, hands-on activities can engage the whole family and add to your understanding of another culture. For Cinco de Mayo, try researching and cooking some authentic Mexican dishes. You could even add vegetables commonly used in Mexican cooking to your spring garden. Not interested in culinary endeavors? Why not listen to Mariachi music or try to learn Spanish?
Holidays are always a good time to give back to the community with your time or resources. Maybe your Cinco de Mayo celebrations will allow you the opportunity to support local businesses owned by Mexican-Americans, or volunteer at an organization that seeks to help Mexican-Americans in need. Though they work with all Latinx populations, the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce or Hispanic Heritage Foundation may be good places to learn more.
Appreciation over Appropriation
When we celebrate holidays recognizing other cultures, we have to be mindful to not take on aspects of that culture in an inappropriate way, or one that perpetuates stereotypes, mockery disrespect. Learn more about cultural sharing from Michigan State Extension.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Emily Schoenfelder joined the Illinois 4-H team in 2017. Prior to this, she began her work in positive youth development with California 4-H and the YMCA. She specializes in STEM engagement, social-emotional development, and educator professional development.
She received a Master of Science degree in recreation, park, and tourism administration from Western Illinois University.
When she is not writing curriculum or facilitating a training, you may find Emily sitting on the floor of her office, building marshmallow catapults out of popsicle sticks or designing mazes for robots for her next STEM program.
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Connection Corner is a blog that provides timely information, activities, and resources to help you stay connected to loved ones, the world around you, and yourself.