What You Need to Know Before You Put on a Sombrero

I absolutely love latin culture! The food, the music, the language, the people; everything about it brings me so much joy.  I’ve had many people tell me that I was meant to be born as a latina!  So how exactly did Spanish come into my life in the first place?

I spent years in a high school classroom, looking at a textbook and translating.  When the time came that I had to apply my Spanish to a real world situation, I had no functional language available to me!  It was only until I lived abroad in Costa Rica that I learned and spoke more Spanish than I had EVER done in any of the years I had spent in a classroom.  As my own children grew, I wanted them to have the same impactful language learning experience and it was only when I realized that there wasn’t one available to me when “Sombrero Time” was born.

For me, my sombrero and the latin culture and language that it represents holds a special place in my heart.  I love what I do! In light of the popularity of Cinco de Mayo, it is important to me that we chat a bit about cultural celebrations.

Cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation

For some academic insight on how to respectfully partake in the celebrations and symbols of another culture, I spoke with Professor Lilia Rosas of the St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.

Cultural Appropriation versus Cultural Appreciation

She defines cultural appropriation as “the adoption of cultural beliefs, customs, and celebrations while erasing the people and history where these ideas, practices, and other cultural manifestations stem from and silencing the importance of the values expressed.” In other words, using symbols or partaking in celebrations and completely ignoring the cultural origins. She contrasts that with cultural appreciation, which “celebrates another people’s culture with an attention to the respecting the origin, history, and people whose beliefs, customs, and celebrations are being honored, remembered, and/or practiced.”

So…what do we do?

Respect is priority number one.

“Folks should remember they are there to honor, celebrate, participate in a cultural manifestation that is meaningful, perhaps, even sacred, to another community… [You] should partake with intention, patience, and respect.”

That means not this…:

Ignoring a historical lesson and putting on a fake mustache and sombrero for the day.

…but that:

Instructing our students on the historical origins of a cultural holiday and finding authentic ways to celebrate through community events or by speaking with someone of the culture.

Remember that we are creating global citizens! If you think that what we are doing at Spanish Curriculum would be a good fit for your classroom, check out a free trial with us.

¡Felices fiestas!