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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gonzaga asks students not to be offensive when celebrating Cinco de Mayo

FILE – In this photograph taken by AP Images for On The Border, Sara Macalik, left, and Whitney Beauford dance to La Freak at On The Border's Cinco de Mayo Party on Saturday, May 5, 2012 in Addison, Texas. The band entertained the crowd at the annual event. (Mike Fuentes / AP IMAGES FOR ON THE BORDER)

Today is Cinco de Mayo, and Gonzaga University Vice President for Student Development Judi Biggs Garbuio said she doesn’t want to come across any pictures of GU students appropriating Mexican culture.

Biggs Garbuio sent an email to Gonzaga undergraduates on Wednesday, encouraging them to be culturally sensitive while celebrating the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over the French Empire.

“Unfortunately, the celebrations have become less about the appreciation of Mexican heritage, and instead has become more about drinking and partying especially by non-Mexican individuals,” Biggs Garbuio said in the email. “Because of this, there are many instances when Cinco de Mayo becomes a holiday that is full of cultural appropriation.

“At some college campuses, including our own, students create ‘theme’ parties or dress in costumes that are insensitive and offensive to the Mexican-American and more broadly the Latinx culture.”

Latinx (pronounced Lateen-ex) is a gender-neutral term for Latina or Latino.

The email included a link to the Facebook page of Gonzaga’s Unity Multicultural Education Center, which recently posted an item dubbed “Alternative Ways to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo.”

It suggested to learn about the annual Mexican holiday, support authentic Mexican businesses, “celebrate responsibly” by not wearing serapes and fake mustaches and “donate to organizations working for immigrants rights.”

After Ben McDonald, a Gonzaga student, penned a story about the email for Red Alert Politics, a horde of other popular conservative websites, including the Daily Wire, followed suit.

“Colleges have become havens for the easily offended on campuses across the nation to complain about people enjoying themselves as being ‘offensive to their culture,’ ” McDonald wrote. “Whether it was Yale students getting offended for Halloween costumes or Pitzer College students saying that hoop earrings are racist, Gonzaga is just the next addition to the many other universities who have caved in the face of ‘cultural appropriation.’ ”

Biggs Garbuio told The Spokesman-Review she was surprised to see so many websites sound off on her email. She said she wrote a similar email a year ago and annually sends emails during Halloween about avoiding racially insensitive costumes.

“The intent was purely to educate the students on the history of Cinco de Mayo,” she said.

After seeing some schools across the country dealing with the backlash of cultural appropriation in party settings, Biggs Garbuio said she wanted to get ahead of the issue.

“They had to deal with the consequences after,” Biggs Garbuio said. “We have not had an incident on our campus, but we are trying to be proactive in nature.”