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Brave New World of Pettiness: Leftist Law Center Decries ‘Cultural Appropriation’ of Cinco de Mayo

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) took a break from prosecuting the Ku Klux Klan and blasting mainstream conservative organizations as "hate groups" in order to protect Cinco de Mayo from "cultural appropriation" this weekend.

"Most of the festivities surrounding [Cinco de Mayo] in the US are textbook examples of cultural appropriation, relegating the history and culture of Mexican people to novelty items," the SPLC tweeted on Saturday. "Mexican culture cannot be reduced to tacos, oversized sombreros and piñatas."

The tweet included a link to an article about Cinco de Mayo on Tolerance.org, explaining what the holiday is and is not.

"Cinco de Mayo (the fifth of May) is not Mexico’s Independence Day," Lauryn Mascareñaz emphatically declared. This is true. Rather, "Cinco de Mayo is the day in 1862 when a small, largely outnumbered group of Mexican soldiers took on an invading French army at the Battle of Puebla—and won. General Ignacio Zaragoza and his troops inspired Union soldiers who were fighting in the American Civil War. These Union soldiers celebrated with parades, folklórico dancers, bull fights and traditional music honoring the Mexican soldiers and people."

In other words, Cinco de Mayo has a long, proud history of "cultural appropriation." The Mexican soldiers who defeated the French army at the Battle of Puebla did not fight for the cause of the Union in the American Civil War. The Civil War enabled France to invade Mexico, and the French defeat in Mexico may have alleviated Union soldiers's fear that France would join the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy, which was never likely.

The Union soldiers took joy in Mexico's victory, celebrating with various aspects of Mexican culture. Mascareñaz suggested that this "positive" and affirming celebration contrasted with the modern celebration of Cinco de Mayo. In the intervening years, the holiday "morphed into a celebration of Mexican 'heritage' that is painfully false and largely publicized through alcohol advertising."

She linked to a Washington Post story from 2014, reporting on outrage after the MSNBC show "Way Too Early" attempted to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in a tragically off-kilter fashion. "Welcome to ‘Way too Early,’ the show that loves Cinco de Mayo…even though we only speak Spanish un poco," host Thomas Roberts began, ushering in a surface-level celebration of tequila, sombreros, and maracas that many found offensive. She also referenced a situation in 2010 at a California high school where students proudly wore American flag t-shirts at a Cinco de Mayo event, clearly aiming to insult Mexicans.