I wear my culture on a daily basis. My research in folklorico dance and the limitless color, weave, fabric & patterns available are what first attracted me to begin seeking out and collecting prime examples of my cultural heritage. To keep these beauties hidden away in bins would be sinful. So, I wear my culture on daily basis.
I’m generally met with compliments and questions about the origins, construction, history, etc and I’m happy to respond. On occasion, I will encounter some people with poor social skills and lacking in filters. They are swiftly schooled in a gentle, but firm manner.
Growing up brown in my hometown of Sacramento, I was exposed to many instances of cultural insensitivity when it came to costume vs. culture. My own high school had the student-body divided into Cowboys and Indians (with the accompanying costume) for student spirit rallies. It railed me to no end when my classmates and even friends that should know better used articles of folklorico dance clothing as ‘costumes’. Back then I was the lone voice in protest, drowned by the tide of ignorance and bad manners.
Pero ya basta. No more.
It was with great dismay that I learned of the recent incident at Cal State Fullerton in which my culture was misappropriated by a sorority for casual entertainment. According to Cal State Fullerton’s on-campus newspaper Daily Titan, “Alpha Delta Pi, Zeta Alpha Chapter sorority is facing serious sanctions for wearing culturally insensitive attire which included sarapes, sombreros, and in some cases gang costumes at its “Taco Tuesday” recruitment event last month.”
The university was swift in its dealing with the situation. I appreciate Cal State Fullerton’s appropriate response on the incident and Alpha Delta Pi, Zeta Alpha Chapter for taking responsibility for its actions. Personally, I would have issued harsher penalties. Pero en fin.
In a Washington Times opinion article, “Will Taco Tuesday penalty on California campus also kill Halloween?” Ernest Istook misrepresented the situation when he compared the sorority’s insensitive attire choice to the members of Ballet Folklorico de CSUF. In the opinion piece, Istook compared the sorority’s incident with Ballet Folklorico de CSUF’s cultural activities validating no difference between the two organizations.
To him and others in misstep: The members of Ballet Folklorico de CSUF and the folklorico community wear and utilize cultural attire and props to showcase their national pride for Mexico and to celebrate their heritage. The incident at the Cal State Fullerton sorority does not and should not be compared to how the Mexican community celebrates its culture.
I do believe that if ‘cultures of the world’ were a required course of study, we would find more commonalities than differences.
Maria Luisa Colmenarez
President, Danzantes Unidos