Op-Ed: It’s all fun and games…until you call it a Fiesta

Opinion by and
Feb. 17, 2011, 12:20 a.m.

I opened my email Tuesday and read “Fiesta at Men’s Basketball.” My gut instinct told me to ignore the email, or delete it, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt, and opened it anyway. Was I surprised by what I saw? Not really, but I was definitely disappointed. Of course the Sixth Man Club would be hosting a taco bar, and they would be handing out free sombreros before the basketball game — what else could “fiesta” mean?

It may seem inconsequential. After all, it is just a themed celebration like any other. But it’s really not. Hosting parties and events centered around ethnic and racial traditions can easily turn into disrespectful gatherings. What happens when someone shows up to the event in a poncho? A fake Pancho Villa moustache? Singing la cucaracha? Flashing a green card? Or doing that stupid sound people make when they try to imitate Speedy Gonzalez?

The line between offensive and just-for-fun is blurry and I expect more thoughtfulness from the Stanford Athletics Department and the Sixth Man Club. Events like this lead to problems like last year’s “Compton Cookout” in UCSD where students dressed up in chains and ate chicken and watermelon to celebrate Black History Month. Similarly, a lesser-known incident occurred at a “Taco and Tequila Party” at the University of Illinois, where students arrived at the party dressed up as pregnant girls and illegal aliens. This type of event is an open invitation for students to celebrate negative stereotypes and showcase their ignorance about other peoples’ traditions and cultures.

I don’t know what the Sixth Man Club was thinking when they decided that hosting a “fiesta” would be a good marketing strategy to bring out basketball fans. Even more troubling is the fact that someone from Stanford University’s Athletic Department had to approve of the party in order for it to be sent out in their official student newsletter. I don’t know if the Sixth Man Club also got an approval from the Student Activities and Leadership (SAL) office for this event, but as they are a registered student group, I expect that they did. How can the same office that finds a party named Hot Prowl offensive not think the same about a taco and sombrero pregame called a Fiesta? Next time, I suggest sticking to less controversial themes.

I know tacos are delicious and easy to serve to large crowds, but using my culture to celebrate something completely outside of its traditions is insensitive. Why can’t you serve tacos and call it a pregame? Is it necessary to include sombreros, a traditional garb of my people, and call the event a Fiesta? The theme is completely unnecessary and cheapens the culture of many Spanish-speaking countries.

And don’t even get me started on Cinco de Mayo…

Diana Marquez De La Torre ’11

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