The athletic department of Cornell University was chided — and eventually apologized — over its Cinco de Mayo-themed marketing campaign, which involved the most heinous of racist stereotypes: the consumption of tacos and the donning of sombreros.
The campaign unfolded last week, and was intended to muster enthusiasm for Saturday’s football game against Colgate University. Free nachos were given out, and students were asked to dress up in ponchos and sombreros. The person with the “best costume” received a prize. The goal was to develop a “festive atmosphere,” according to Jeff Hall, a marketing director for Cornell Athletics.
But what was fun and festive for some, was offensive and hateful for others.
“I was disappointed that this theme was stereotyping the Mexican culture of which I identify,” said Stephanie Martinez, a Cornell student, in a statement to The Cornell Daily Sun.
Martinez was not alone. Latino student groups hurled accusations of racism and cultural insensitivity, and the university eventually censored all offending marketing efforts.
The athletic department issued an apology, and said that it had learned from the incident, according to The College Fix.
But many Latino students are not yet ready to offer forgiveness. The pain is too recent.
“My first question was how did this get so far without anyone noticing that this could be hurtful to people on campus, people that are supposed to be part of this ‘inclusive’ community?” wondered Martinez. “This definitely tainted the idea of community at Cornell.”
Add “community” to the list of victims of Cornell’s racist “free nachos” policy.
Cornell’s students are not the first to put away their sombreros. Earlier this year, during actual Cinco de Mayo, a Latino student group at Northwestern University implored students not to eat tacos or drink tequila shots; doing so would be culturally insensitive, they said. (RELATED: Latino student group says eating tacos is offensive to Mexicans)
Fortunately, Northwestern has a much cooler population of Mexican students than Cornell, and several ethnically Mexican students announced publicly that they did indeed wish to celebrate the holiday with tequila shots and tacos.
Cornell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.