COLUMBIA, Mo. – A Mexican-themed “free finals food” study break event put on by student leaders at the University of Missouri has angered some members of the campus Hispanic American Leadership Organization, who have demanded an apology for the allegedly offensive party.
The Missouri Students Association put on an event titled “FIESTA” – featuring a taco bar and Mariachi band – which, the group argued, gave semester-weary students a respite from studying for finals.
“Join (us) … for an end-of-the-year Fiesta on Lowry Mall! Enjoy catering provided by La Siesta (while supplies last) as you take a break from studying for finals!” stated the official description of the event on the campus website.
Unlike Cinco de Mayo celebrations, this one took place May 6, not May 5.
Regardless the date, the match was lit when the student government sent out a tweet saying “Come get free tacos from @lasiestamex on Lowry for… Seis de Mayo? While supplies last (@StuffToDoAtMU).”
Critics of the campus event argued that the two groups that put on the celebration, Missouri Students Association in conjunction with the campus’ Department of Student Activities, knew a Cinco de Mayo celebration would offend people if it were held on May 5, so the organizations changed the date.
“After seeing the tweet, we concluded that this event was in fact a Cinco de Mayo event,” MU students Andrew Abarca, Joel Dalton, and Debrielle De La Haye stated in a letter to the editor of The Maneater.
“It is referenced in the tweets from ‘fiesta’ to the ‘Seis de Mayo’ to having stereotypically Mexican objects present (piñatas, a Mariachi band, tacos, etc.),” they added. “So, we wanted to start a dialogue with MSA and DSA about the problematic and offensive nature of hosting an event about a holiday in which the cultural and historical significance were given no thought.”
The three students who wrote the letter to the editor claimed the event exploited the Mexican culture.
Dalton, one of the writers of the editorial, told The College Fix in an email that the Hispanic American Leadership Organization and the writers of the editorial want “to see a public and formal apology to Chicano/a, Mexican, and Mexican American students, faculty, and staff and still want that.”
He went on to say, “our intent in this article was to bring to light injustices we faced and want to work together to make a better tomorrow for Mizzou and its students.”
The Missouri Students Association, in the comment section of the Maneater, apologized “for the poor timing and insensitive nature of our ‘free finals food’ event.”
“We understand that Cinco de Mayo should be a time to celebrate history and culture, but is instead used to perpetuate harmful stereotypes and for cultural appropriation,” it added. “We deeply regret contributing to the latter. We will take steps to ensure that our calendar of events, and our association, provides a safe space for involvement and fun, while respecting all Mizzou students.”
Apparently this apology is not formal and official enough for the offended students. The MSA at the University of Missouri refused to comment for this story.
Similar controversies to the one at MU have taken place across the nation over the last month.
College Fix contributor Christopher White is a University of Missouri graduate student and an editorial assistant for The College Fix.
IMAGE: WFIU Public Radio/Flickr