Jesse Valencia

Drinco de Gringo and the Social Justice Scrooge

On this Cinco de Mayo, Jesse Valencia questions the Phoenix New Times run up to the holiday with two articles they published imploring white people to stay home instead and play a drinking game.  

 

Do people really care what other people do when they party? Or why they party?

Not me. I could give a shit. But every year, it seems, people work themselves into hissy fits about what they call the “problematic” aspects of holidays. Everything from cultural appropriation to racism to sexual objectification could be the culprit. This year’s Cinco de Mayo is no exception.

Before anyone throws the term “white fragility” around, you should know that I am Mexican American. A whole quarter of my family hails from our neighbor to the south, and a very large quarter at that. The only white fragility I have ever experienced is my not knowing enough Spanish during family get-togethers; but not one time have I heard anyone in my family or any of my Mexican American friends complain about White Americans wearing sombreros, fake moustaches, or getting wasted on Cinco de Mayo. Not once.

Two days before this year’s Cinco de Mayo, the Phoenix New Times (PNT) published two articles an hour apart imploring White Americans to “stay home” on the holiday. The first was “Cinco de Mayo is Kind of a Bullshit Holiday, But Does It Even Matter?” by Patricia Escarcega, a food critic for the PNT. The other was “Introducing ‘Drinco de Gringo’: Phoenix’s At-Home Cinco de Mayo Game” for which no author is named. It appears to be a staff effort.

I have coined a new term for these party poopers: The Social Justice Scrooge. Or SJS.

In “Bullshit Holiday,” Escarcega complains that Cinco de Mayo in the United States has “devolved into a minor, lowbrow American drinking holiday, whose totemic symbols include happy hour-priced [sic] Coronas, bedazzled charro hats donned by people who are not Mexican charros, and punishingly sweet frozen slurries borne [sic] out of neon-yellow margarita mixes and bottom-shelf tequila. … understand that wearing a charro hat when you’re not a Mexican charro may send signals that you’re goofy at best, and kind of an asshole at worst. …” Escarcega admits in the article that she has a “love-hate relationship” with the holiday.

The “Drinco de Gringo” article, however, is less subtle, working much harder to link White Americans partying on Cinco de Mayo to the deportation-friendly immigration policies of Donald Trump and the far-right. The faux board game, I admit, is actually kind of hilarious [see it here]. Seems innocent enough. But what put me off was that, with this second article written by “Phoenix New Times,” there are three anti-white digs:

  • “Oh, white people: They sure love turning other cultures’ holidays into an excuse to tie one on.”
  • [Facebook post promoting the second article via their Facebook page:] “White people turning another ethnic holiday into a reason to drink excessively–classic.”
  • [A hyperlinked photo caption at the top of the first article to promote the second article:] “For all you white people who want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo like a real Phoenician, be safe and play our game at home instead.”

White people, white people, white people! If I didn’t know any better, I would say all of those sentences were probably written by a white person!

Joking aside, the rhetoric in these articles is carefully constructed to be neutral, but it is easy to see through the sheen how these authors really feel. Put simply, they do not want white people going out to drink and party on Cinco de Mayo thus putting their money in the hands and pockets of Mexican-American business owners. Nope. Only Mexican Americans are allowed to do that.

Well, too bad, so sad, party poopers. Cry me a river, but may the tequila and margaritas flow. You’re the one who should be staying home if it really offends you that much, playing “Drinco de Gringo” with all of your triggered, anti-fun, party-pooper SJS friends.

While the debate around Cinco de Mayo (or Drinco de Gringo, apparently, if you’re white) may continue indefinitely for years to come, there is a much larger issue at work here and that’s the freedom of speech and expression when it comes to holidays and how they are celebrated in the United States.

It seems in recent history literally every holiday has something about it deemed offensive. Some of them I understand, like Columbus Day; I can totally get on board with replacing that holiday with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, if only for logical reasons alone. Yes, Columbus was cruel, tyrannical, and despotic towards the Indigenous People of the Caribbean, but that’s just it! He landed and explored the Caribbean, not the United States. Indigenous Americans in the United States and Christopher Columbus have nothing to do with each other. Another point: the dude didn’t discover anything. People were already here and he was trying to find a quicker route to Asia, so we literally have a Federal holiday dedicated to a dude who got lost. Which brings me to my last point: why is it a Federal holiday? It’s a frustrating, unwelcome surprise to be off work or to go to the bank on Columbus Day. Bank’s closed. Nothing’s open. Dollar stores and maybe Walmart have discount sales. No one does anything actually fun on Columbus Day. It’s a boring, boring, boring and useless holiday.

But this same label of “problematic” is applied to positive, lowkey holidays as well, like Thanksgiving which celebrates the harvest, family, charity, and humility and is historically based in cooperation between Indigenous and White Americans. How could anyone hate on a holiday centered around family, food, and cooperation? And delicious pie, for Chrissake?

Whenever Thanksgiving is around the corner, many a triggered SJS are quick to highlight the decimation and genocide of Indigenous peoples by the American government as the Founding Fathers’ vision of sea-to-shining-sea Manifest Destiny was realized throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Kind of makes the turkey taste dry, doesn’t it?

But it goes on. God forbid you dress like Pocahontas or an Indian chief on Halloween. If you’re not culturally appropriating something, you’re oversexualizing or being offensive. You can’t dress like a Nazi or a Confederate soldier on Halloween because those dudes were evil racists. You can’t dress like an Islamic Jihadist either because, even though those dudes are evil too, what you’re really doing is perpetuating stereotypes about Muslims and … blah blah blah blah blah.

My understanding of the First Amendment is that everyone is allowed to dress however they want all the time, and that goes like quadruple for Halloween. What is a good laugh for one could be, or is going to be, offensive to another, because that’s the way comedy works and that’s the awesome reality of living in a free country. I can’t and don’t want to imagine a politically-correct, culturally-sanitized Halloween where everyone is worried about offending people with their costume. It just sounds so sad and lame. And I sure as hell don’t want white people staying home playing board games on Cinco de Mayo when they could be going out there eating tacos and drinking gallons of tequila and putting cash in the pockets of my fellow Mexican Americans who own some, if not most, of the Mexican restaurants those people will be eating and drinking at. To me, anyone who is against white people celebrating Cinco de Mayo in the ways they do has to also be against Mexican Americans making money on the holiday.

After all, you don’t hear anybody complain about Valentine’s Day or how our transforming it into a holiday celebrating romantic love is an affront to the memory of those executed by Emperor Claudius II on that day, do you? Should we not celebrate Oktoberfest because Nazis killed millions of people during the World Wars? Do only French Catholics gets to celebrate Mardi Gras?

Final thought: Don’t stay home on Cinco de Mayo, White America. Support Mexican-owned businesses instead, like the restaurants and bars you will be eating and drinking at. Wear the charro hats, the funny moustaches, and wave your little Chinese-made Mexican flags. Drink one-dollar Coronas and margaritas to your heart’s content. This May 5, don’t let a Social Justice Scrooge ruin your fun, because next thing you know, they’ll be going after Christmas.

Oh, wait …

 

 

Jesse Valencia

Jesse Valencia is a writer, musician, and actor. A veteran of the Army, Jesse’s poem “Reflecting On Five Years Of Service” was included in Warrior Writer’s 2011 anthology After Action Review. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Northern Arizona University in 2014 and is currently finishing his second Master’s, in literature, also at NAU. As a freelance journalist he has published feature music articles on the band The Brian Jonestown Massacre in both Phoenix New Times and Flagstaff Live! As an actor he has appeared opposite Tom Sizemore in the crime drama Durant’s Never Closes. In addition to writing and acting he sings and plays guitar in the band Gorky.

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