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Celebrating Cinco de Mayo without the cultural appropriation

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -

There are plenty of ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in South Bend.

Local leaders say it's best to educate before you celebrate.

The holiday is often misunderstood.

Silvia Larson came to the United States 27 years ago from Mexico.

She works at Flamingo’s, an authentic restaurant and grocery store in South Bend.

There, you won’t find any Cinco de Mayo themed discounts or deals Friday.

Larson says the holiday really isn’t a big deal in Mexico, other than occasional school activities.

“In schools, I think, they do a dance and they dress the kids like the warriors,” Larson said.

In the United States, the widely celebrated Cinco de Mayo is often misinterpreted.

It is not a Mexican independence day celebration, but a remembrance of the Battle of Puebla.

Sam Centellas from La Casa de Amistad says having fun is fine, but it’s important not to mock Mexican culture in a diverse community like South Bend.

“The wrong way to go about it is to try to use the culture to be funny or perpetuate stereotypes. Once again, the sombreros and maracas and things like that just aren’t appropriate,” Centellas said.

Warnings of offensive celebrations are cheesy ad campaigns, often by chain restaurants.

Centellas says the best celebrations are run by community heritage groups.

“Look for places that are really celebrating the culture, that are connected to either a Latino Parish, a Latino organization, something civic that’s really connected with our community,” Centellas said.

In South Bend, La Casa will have Mexican dance performances at the South Bend Cubs game.

There is also a Cinco de Mayo festival in Howard Park Saturday.

While authentic Mexican eateries may not have fancy margarita deals, Centellas says they are the best places to spend money and show support on the holiday.

“It’s a great way to really celebrate that South Bend is an immigrant city,” Centellas said.

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