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Here’s your Cinco de Mayo history lesson for the day, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the Battle of Puebla or the weird 19th Century French Hapsburg incursion into Mexico.
Instead, it’s a cautionary tale about some of the stupidest things that people and companies have done to mark the most Mexican-American of occasions on the American calendar.
1. If you absolutely have to wear a mariachi sombrero and drink tequila on Cinco de Mayo, don’t do it on national TV
The hosts and producers of MSNBC’s “Way Too Early” found this out the hard way last May. Host Thomas Roberts spoke about the origins of the holiday and said it was a celebration of "Mexican heritage and pride" as he gestured to senior producer Louis Burgdorf walked around in a sombrero, shaking a maracas and swigging tequila straight from the bottle.
“It’s also an excuse for Louis to drink tequila on a Monday morning,” Roberts said, smiling.
Both Roberts and Burgdorf later apologized on-air, and the network did as well on social media. All the apologies were of the lame, it-was-not-our-intention-to-offend variety.
2. You are what you wear
The hipper-than-thou clothing brand Nylon earlier this week was set to introduce Cinco de Mayo-inspired T-shirts, but more than a few people found them in poor taste, according to CNN Money. One of the shirts had a "Cinco de" and an image of a jar of mayo.
After an uproar by Remezcla.com, who rallied people to people to complain, Nylon pulled the line, with its CEO, Paul Greenberg, issuing a statement that read, "We are very sorry and regret that we misjudged how these items would be perceived."
3. Sometimes college 'exuberance' is just that
A "Phiesta" thrown as a charity fundraiser by a number of fraternities and sororities at Dartmouth College scheduled for April 26 was scuttled when a Mexican-American student complained about the event being "exploitative" and "inappropriate."
The organizers were going to be served Latin-themed drinks and snacks and the student called it a "casual venture for such a privileged institution such as Dartmouth."
Last May at the University of California, Davis, a party was promoted on Facebook as “Cinco de Drinko,” along with a photo of four male students wearing sombreros and clambering over a chain link fence while two female students dressed in Border Patrol uniforms laughed.
Students suggested sit-ins and protests on the campus. As a result, the university’s chancellor recommended a mandatory class on diversity.
Way to go guys! Now everybody has more homework.
4. And speaking of "Cinco de Drinko"…
Good Morning America’s correspondent, Lara Spencer, mugged for the camera last year while wearing a straw sombrero and holding a green frozen drink in her hand and declaring that Cinco de Mayo was the biggest day of the year for Margarita sales.
“It’s also known as Cinco de Drinko!” she squealed, eliciting head shakes and nervous smiles among her on-set colleagues.
Spencer later tweeted out an apology reading, “Got carried [away with] excitement over Cinco de Mayo celebration on GMA— Sorry.”
— Lara Spencer (@LaraSpencer) May 6, 2014
5. Drink tequila till you crawl
Every year on May 4, Sparkle Donkey tequila sponsors a May 4 tequila pub crawl through the Ballard section of Seattle organizers call the “Cuatro de Burro.” Participants are encouraged to get dressed as stereotypical Mexicans.
The event’s website promises “a mariachi band and noble donkeys leading the way from watering hole to watering hole.”
This year, participants were given complimentary sombreros or French berets to honor the Battle of Puebla.
Cuatro de Burro has its detractors on social media, with one tweeter – Marcos Martinez, the executive director of a nonprofit group, Entre Hermanos – calling it “a #racist representation of mexican people and culture, right here in Seattle!”
— Marcos Martinez (@marcosinseattle) May 1, 2014
6. The people of Seattle take their Mexican stereotyping seriously.
Another local Cinco de Mayo tradition is the ¡Fiesta 5K Olé! fun run through Volunteer Park. Many of the participants choose to run while wearing serapes, sombreros and large, bushy mustaches.
The event culminates at the “beer and Margarita garden,” where people get to sample the fare from local taco trucks, listen to bands, and, oh, yeah, drink themselves stupid.
A petition posted this year on Change.org reads, “This racist event mocks Mexican community and its people and is highly offensive. The event’s theme, imagery, pictures posted on the website, among other things are incredibly offensive.”
It received 349 votes.
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