‘Cultures are not costumes’: Brown U professor on history, significance of Cinco de Mayo


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Cinco de Mayo is Wednesday, so 12 News took a moment to learn more about the celebration of Mexican heritage.

Brown University Professor of Anthropology Paja Faudree spoke with 12 News at 4 on the history of the holiday, the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico, and more.

Watch the full question and answer with Paja Faudree in the video above.

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrated to commemorate the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, when Mexican troops had a surprise victory over the French.

Faudree suggested celebrating the holiday by finding a local authentic Mexican restaurant, going to museum exhibits or seeking out a Mexican film on a streaming service.

“A really important thing to do is to remember that cultures are not costumes,” she said.

“Resist stereotypes, it might be fun to just throw on a big sombrero and wear a big mustache, but it’s really much better to have respect for Mexican culture and learn a bit about Mexican culture if you don’t know much about it,” Faudree added.

Faudree said Cinco de Mayo became associated with drinking in the 1980’s when beer companies wanted to tap into the market. She also said the holiday is celebrated more in the U.S. than it is in Mexico, pointing to Mexican Independence Day on Sept. 16 as a greater day of significance to our southern neighbor.

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