The Chicano Caucus denounces the Cinco de Mayo-themed party entitled "!Olé!-E?" as racist and insulting to the Mexican-American community at Columbia. The Facebook invitation to "!Olé!-E?" originally asked its attendees to "bring out the ponchos, sombreros, bandanas" or give their "best chola/o," guaranteeing to take its partygoers "below the border" to the "hottest, wettest, and spiciest venue in the world." These offensive words are in direct contrast to the supportive culture Columbia tries to maintain, and reinforce tired stereotypes that have long been used to create a demeaning image of Mexicans. Far from celebrating Mexican history, the party theme dehumanizes the Chicano community, reducing its members to mere caricatures. The words "hottest, wettest, and spiciest" fetishize Mexican culture as exotic, sexualizing our non-whiteness. Guests are additionally encouraged to dress like a cholo/chola, denoted by the accompanying image of a female in baggy pants, large hoop earrings, and a tank top. This typifies all Mexicans as fulfilling the cholo/chola role, reducing Mexican-American culture to the culture of violence often (though not fairly) attached to cholo/chola subculture. Further, themed parties such as these completely negate the lives and social processes that shape and structure a cholo/chola subculture. Unfortunately, cultural insensitivity and ignorance are not exclusive to the Columbia campus. A few months ago, a Facebook invite entitled "Compton Cookout" at the University of California, San Diego similarly asked invitees to dress in culturally stereotypical dress in honor of Black History Month. The wording in the invite was not only in poor taste, but also displayed indifference to the implications made about the African-American community. This sparked racial tensions across University of California campuses, and became a concern of various university students throughout the country. Events, actions and words of this nature should not be dismissed as "just a joke." The repercussions of the perpetuation of stereotypes are nationwide. Consider the newly signed bill SB1070 in Arizona, which will require its police to ask people about their immigration status if officers have "reasonable suspicion" that they are in this country illegally. As such, those who "look" illegal will be targeted, effectively legalizing racial profiling. Moreover, the current "anti-immigrant" attitude is often equated with an "anti-Latino" (and especially anti-Mexican) sentiment. Stereotyping all Mexican-Americans as "cholos/as" marginalizes us on and off campus, and thus we find the Facebook event to be disrespectful and believe that it should not be taken lightly. We encourage others in our community to be culturally sensitive when planning Cinco de Mayo parties, as something as seemingly innocuous as a Facebook invite can hurt many within the Columbia community. Cinco de Mayo is not an event to be mocked, but rather should be seen as a day to celebrate the traditions and culture of Mexican-Americans. It is imperative that as Columbia students, we prevent hostilities and racial tensions from arising on our campus, and instead ensure that the Columbia community is one in which students of all races and ethnicities feel valued and most of all, respected. The Chicano Caucus is an on-campus Latino students organization.
Columbia Spectator Staff