Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Cultural Appropriation in Racing

I rail about the color runs and how they stole a beautiful Hindu cultural tradition for profit and how much it frustrates me that people see this profile photo and ask me about the Color Run when in fact it is from a local Holi festival this year.

But I signed up for Cinco de Miler and Cinco de Muddo without a thought about cultural appropriation. There's a big difference between appropriation and celebration; the short explanation is demonstrating respect versus mocking the culture.

I went to the Cinco de Miler for the celebratory atmosphere, cool t-shirt, and the chance to run a 5-mile race, a race distance I'd never run before. Many participants dressed up in sombreros and luchador masks, and I saw one woman running in a full-body taco costume. I was ignorant. They were mocking. The race claims to celebrate "Mexico's colorful culture," which is NOT what Cinco de Mayo celebrates, and it supported the Ronald McDonald House Charities — Dallas.

No. Just stop.

At Cinco de Muddo, we got free samples of tequila. If there was anything questionable at the event, I didn't see it. The mariachi band and flamenco dancers were gone before I arrived. This event made money off the Cinco de Mayo celebration but/and benefited the Sharkarosa Wildlife Ranch, which houses and rehabilitates rescued wildlife.

The issue of cultural appropriation as related to these events only occurred to me after the fact, so I did some research. Cinco de Mayo is a small Mexican holiday with about as much fanfare as the United States' Flag Day. It commemorates an unlikely victory at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. In the US, we typically celebrate by dressing up in sombreros and mustaches and getting falling-down drunk on the basis that that's how to celebrate Mexican culture. It's mocking, it's rude, and it's wrong. So it's very American:
We completely forget about the true meaning behind the day. Instead, we get giant store displays of beer and tortilla chips stating things like: “Corona de Mayo” and “It’s Cinco, let’s salsa!” Because obviously the only way to engage others in this holiday is through beer and tortilla chips. I always dread the few weeks before Cinco de Mayo because of these stereotyped displays. All they do is trivialize the holiday and push people back into further ignorance about the significance of the day. Cinco de Mayo has come to be known as more of a drinking and partying holiday than anything else, which is wrong.
I mentioned the charities above because other racing events, such as Chicago's Carrera de los Muertos 5k, manage to create a race based on a cultural tradition AND support local charities that benefit the Hispanic community. Unlike the Dallas events that didn't even bother.

I'll think twice about participating next year and see if I can get in touch with the event organizers about my concerns before I do. Cinco de Miler sent out a thorough post-race survey with ample opportunity for me to speak my mind about the event. At least it's something.

It's a process, and every month I learn something new that I ought to look for in future races so I can responsibly vote with my dollars for basic respect of others.

1 comment:

  1. I have a problem in general with the "Mudder" style races and how they treat the facilities/trails that they use. Often those promoters do nothing to help with upkeep on the trails that they use and they put a lot of wear and tear on things. Especially if the trail is wet.