By Jacob Sprecher
Last week I happened to read an extremely unfortunate opinion piece in The Orion. Titled “Sombreros, mustaches acceptable on Chavez,” the column defended the recent Chico State tradition of dressing up like a bandito, beating piñatas and shooting tequila on Cesar Chavez Day.
“I don’t see the hate, and I disagree with the racism associated with Cesar Chavez Day,” writes Lucas Meeks. “It’s a custom on St. Patrick’s Day to dress in as much green as possible to show Irish holiday cheer, yet on Cesar Chavez Day, wearing a sombrero or poncho is seen as racially insensitive.”
Okay. I’m not gonna kneejerk and accuse Meeks of being a racist or, for that matter, a dumb-ass college kid that has no idea who Cesar Chavez even was. Meeks acknowledges Chavez as a “great man,” but simply doesn’t “understand the outrage over our treatment of his legacy.” Time to fix that.
Let’s begin with Meeks’ comparison of Cesar Chavez Day to St. Paddy’s. Unfortunately for Meeks, there is no logical comparison. St. Patrick’s Day is a 1,300-year-old religious holiday that, until 20th century Irish-Americans altered it, was nothing more than a simple feast in their homeland. This “holiday” is a complete sham in the first place, as St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish; he was born and raised on a wealthy, slave-owning farm in Britain. As for his teachings, there are two—and only two—letters in existence actually written by the patron saint. He was not sent to Ireland by the Pope, he did not introduce Christianity or drive snakes out of Ireland, nor did he use a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. In reality, St. Patrick was a missionary; he anointed clergy and performed baptisms, nothing more.
I can already hear people saying I’m simply proving Meeks’ point, that our present celebration of St. Patrick’s Day is a bastardization of a noble man. But what exactly are we bastardizing here? A hagiographical saint that’s been dead for 1,500 years? A hagiographical saint whose pop-culture relevance was brought to the forefront by immigrants of the same country that granted his sainthood? Well, even if we’re not downgrading St. Patrick and all his devout followers, I guess we’re probably still offending all the leprechauns. Because leprechauns are real. Okay, so then it’s offensive to wear the color green. Nope. Alright, so then it’s offensive to get blind drunk on a day revered with sanctity to native Irish peoples. Have you ever spent St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland? Well I have, and everybody gets fucking wasted, just like they do here. St. Patricks’ Day is an accepted, worldwide party whose religious significance never existed in the first place.
Now let’s look at Cesar Chavez Day. This a day dedicated to a very real person; a person that fought tirelessly for the labor/civil rights of Mexican-Americans; a person who passed just 19 years prior; a person that is entirely relevant to modern society and, more specifically, Chico, CA, home to thousands of blue-collar migrant workers. Cesar Chavez Day is a legitimate celebration honoring the continued fight for Mexican Americans’ civil equality. Last time I checked, there isn’t a whole lot hindering job prospects for people with white skin named O’Brien, nor are there cries to deport Irish immigrants back across the sea, nor are there proposed laws attempting to put a physical blockade between the United States and the island of Eire. So when you go to the bars on Cesar Chavez Day with a sombrero on your head and a bandolier strapped across your chest, you’re outright mocking the very substance of the occasion. This is a day to commemorate the progress made in defeating those same racially divisive stereotypes! By this same logic, anyone that thinks it’s okay to do the Mexican hat dance while shooting tequila on Cesar Chavez Day should also think it’s okay to have a party that serves fried chicken and watermelon on Martin Luther King Day!
So Meeks and whoever else: Next year, before the Jose Cuervo wets the glue on your fake ‘stache, take a glance in the mirror. You look like an ignorant fool.