Put down the sombrero

By The Beacon | February 6, 2014 3:03am
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Media Credit: Jerome hart / The Beacon

Bridget Bimrose |

I was born in Peru and lived part of my childhood and youth in Latin America. I chose the path of assimilation and I genuinely enjoy my life in the Pacific Northwest.

There are often times when I walk into buildings, look around and notice that the only people who share my native tongue and features are serving food and mopping floors. Many people will never fully understand the implications of those feelings.

If you can't be what you can’t see, what are my options and who are my heroes?

If you aren't a minority, don't tell me what I should and shouldn't find offensive. That is a dialogue that should begin within the Latino community.

The race and multicultural issue can be polarizing, and there are no easy answers. We should not rush to label heroes and villains. I believe that celebrating culture and diversity enriches the human experience. Engage with people of different backgrounds and beliefs, travel abroad and get out of your comfort zone. It's not about banning sombreros or getting rid of holidays. It's about celebrating cultures with history, traditions, literature, music, dance, food and art! That's what we do on St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo and other cultural holidays. We come together to laugh, share and enjoy.

Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California were all viceroyalties of the Spanish colonial empire and part of Mexico until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Mexican and Latin American culture are a part of U.S. history. Do not reduce it to sombreros and drunken cheers at a basketball game. It's troubling that a stereotype is embraced because there are limited representations of Latinos in the mass media. It doesn't mean we aren't here and the census numbers reflect our relevance. Being collectively mindful and mutually respectful is in the best interest of all people in this country.

Please be educated, respectful and kind when you celebrate diversity. Randomly throwing on a sombrero and frantically dancing around waving the Mexican flag at a basketball game is offensive because you are reducing our grandparents, our parents and our cherished cultural heritage into a painful stereotype. Do us all a favor, put down the sombrero and pick up a book, preferably written by one of many respected and acclaimed Latino authors. Respeto, tolerancia y unidad, por favor. Gracias.

Bridget Bimrose is the project manager of creative marketing at UP. She can be reached at bimrose@up.edu.