Today is Cinco de Mayo, a day when I cringe as I take in the insipid pastiche offerings of local businesses hoping to “celebrate,” or more accurately, appropriate Mexican culture for the archetypal purpose of increased revenue.
I’ve curiously asked many local, eager holiday conspirators over the years whether they are aware of the meaning of the day. Some have answered, “Mexican Independence Day;” some have uttered a combination of a few buzzwords such as tacos, maracas and beer; and there have even been satirical phrases like, “It’s Cinco DeDrinko!” All presented hastily and in true prima facie form.
I wrote an appeal to a local retailer last year (which went unanswered and unacknowledged) after seeing a social media post advertising its holiday sale included employees with sombreros on while shaking maracas and hopping around together in the shop with cartoonish graphics embellishing the Facebook story.
Being of Mexican heritage myself, observing this type of caricature communicates an uninformed, gaping lack of cultural sophistication in our community. For the record, this date does not signify Mexican Independence Day; this is not a national holiday in Mexico; and it is observed mainly in the small Puebla de Los Angeles, where a battle in 1862 claimed many lives.
Experience tells us that a thriving community is made up of businesses that are sufficiently locally rooted and invested. There is a necessity to develop shared trust, cohesion and equity among the populace. We already excel at much of this but would be remiss not to strive toward continued awareness on matters that have the potential to offend.
This is also a time that marks a positive milestone for Springfield. About a year ago, our city hired its first chief equity and diversity officer. In the past three years, we have also seen Springfield Public Schools and CoxHealth hire executives in similar roles. It’s so important to recognize that as our city has grown, we have made strides to shed the swathe of a coterie to don the trappings of a manifold society.
It does not build trust, it does not promote hospitality or cultural awareness, and it does not attract civic growth or enhance commerce to burden one another with banal misrepresentations of cultures whose people walk our streets, patronize our shops, raise families and contribute welcome distinctiveness to this city.
Some of Springfield’s principal organizations and municipalities have already recognized and wisely placed their underpinnings to this certitude. Following suit is surely the best course of action for us all, whether that means educating ourselves on cultural appropriation vs. appropriate appreciation for the purpose of bettering our businesses or for the refinement of our own savoir faire.
I entreat Hispanic business owners to refrain from contributing to a practice that is simply not honoring to the greater impetus. I lift my proverbial glass this week to apposite, thoughtfully crafted observances which bring us together, realizing the opportunity before us to engage ourselves in ethnology. The rewards have proven to be far more profitable.
— Alexandria Dienes, of Springfield, and president of Financial Partners Consulting LLC
The congregation at Crossway Baptist Church is building a children’s wing at the west end of the church, and beginning in 2024, it will be home to a Christian academy.