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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the Editor: White Supremacy and Cinco de Mayo


letter to the editor graphic

Dear Grinnell Campus Community,

Last semester, the Diversity and Outreach Coordinator, along with other multicultural organizations, hosted a “My Identity, Not Your Costume” campaign bringing cultural awareness to the student body about the politics of appropriation and the detrimental effects of such actions. When we first released the promotional materials, we expected to incite dialogue about how such practices contribute to the overall racist tensions on this campus. 

As you may or may not know, the Battle of Puebla became a crucial historical event in Mexican history wherein the Mexicans defeated the French in an important yet gruesome battle. Since then, many Americans have referred to this event as Cinco de Mayo.

However, many individuals of our student body take the opportunity to ‘celebrate’ this so-called ‘Mexican Independence’ day (which actually takes place September 16th) on this date, May 5. In previous years, students on the Grinnell College campus attempted to reclaim and recreate this event as “Cinco de Drinko” by hosting a party in the dorm residence halls and wearing stereotypical and essentializing Mexican attire and accessories (i.e. sombreros, ponchos, empty bottles of tequila, offensive Spanish language signs, and especially, a mustache).

We think it is important to highlight these actions because a lot of the students take the opportunity to misrepresent Mexican people during this faux-holiday. This misrepresentation illuminates an important reality: those who benefit from white supremacy can easily put on a costume and never face the systemic oppression, demonization and fetishization that brown bodies face when they dress according to their heritage and tradition.

Furthermore, we find it highly offensive and insensitive to know that many students on this campus and alumni outside of Grinnell find it amusing and thus a reason to celebrate the number of fatalities that occurred during the Battle of Puebla.

While a fraction of citizens of Mexico, namely people in Puebla, Mexico, do honor the date with parades and folkloric dances, it is simply unacceptable for someone who does not have ancestry from Mexico to make it an excuse to get drunk.

Now, after having a better understanding of this situation, we urge the student body to make conscious and informed decisions when planning to take part in celebrations that contribute to racist and exclusionary practices on this campus. Instead, take a mere 10 minutes out of your day to read scholarship or historical accounts regarding the Battle of Puebla. Support the students on this campus instead of alienating them. It’s time to contribute to the community you were so eager to join during your first year and hope you make an intelligent decision about how your actions have ripple effects and oftentimes hinder the success and wellbeing of others.


Abdiel Lopez ’18, Ashley Gomez ’19, Desiree dos Santos da Mota ’17, Iridian Guzman ’19, Jason Camey ’16, Karla Gomez ’19, Karolina Marquez-Gil ’17, Grisel Hernandez ’17, Mónica Loza ’18 and Yesenia Ayala ’18

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