Ahem, about that sombrero …
In case you’re thinking of wearing a big sombrero to a Cinco de Mayo party — don’t.
Please don’t. Just take a few minutes and rethink the hat.
I know, they’re just hats. It’s just a costume. It’s fun, right?
It’s not so much that dressing up like a Mexican from 1915 is offensive, although people are offended when they are openly mocked. To be clear, speaking with an exaggerated accent, joshing about citizenship and tossing out punchlines involving the words siesta, beans, arriba, no bueno, ole and ay-ay-ay are — in most cases in which a Mexican costume party is concerned — mockery.
And silly stuff happens when people are in costume.
Still, we’re used to it. People have been putting on sombreros and quoting Speedy Gonzales to us since Richie Valens changed his name.
We are used to non-Latinos picking out a few cultural markers and using them as props and party favors during Fiesta, and on Cinco de Mayo and Diez y Seis — although in San Antonio, a fiesta can happen on any day.
Most of us don’t give this more than a smirk or an eye-roll, as this doesn’t directly take food off our table. In fact, for those of us who know how to properly make enchiladas or form a piñata the way God intended, it actually puts food on our table.
But unless you’re a mariachi or are planning to spend a long day out in the sun, the sombrero is impractical. That’s why we don’t wear them.
The glittery velvet numbers you see on mariachis and charros are ceremonial. Mariachis play at weddings, quinceañeras, anniversaries, special dinners and happy events during which we like to hear songs that remind us of our past.
But we don’t all dress like this, and even the charros and mariachis who do only dress up when there’s a performance involved.
And that big straw sombrero? That is a throwback to an agrarian life that went away a long time ago. Today, we wear cowboy hats, Spurs caps and Selena newsboy hats — the same stuff you wear. Even my grandpa was a Resistol guy. Those of us who do work out in the sun all day have figured out a better way to stay cool than those hats worn by El Guapo from “The Three Amigos.”
So when we see you wearing a big sombrero at the party — or a bright sarape or a fake Emiliano Zapata moustache — we know where you’re coming from. You’re wearing a silly, outdated caricature of us.
That you think it’s OK to do this shows us that you aren’t worried about what we think about that caricature. It shows us you don’t know us at all.
My Mexican mom taught me that everyone deserves respect. Those whom we don’t know, especially, deserve respect because how we treat them defines not only who we are but also how we will be perceived.
Think about this before you put on my great-great-grandpa’s hat so you can get your party on. None of us are wearing it; a few of us will take offense, but most of us will just roll our eyes.
But everyone will see you coming.