Sunday, February 18, 2007

Cholas, Janitors and Pregnant Teens

Fiesta!The San Jose Mercury News story on a racially themed "South of the Border" party at Santa Clara University was picked up by the AP this week after the University's student paper printed their own story and some photos from the fiesta. (I added the faces here, since the school paper had blanked them out--good ol' Photoshop.)

The story says in part:
...A "South of the Border" theme party has stirred outrage at a Silicon Valley university after students showed up at the bash dressed as Hispanic janitors, gardeners, gangbangers and pregnant teens. Photographs from the private, off-campus party organized by Santa Clara University students in late January appeared on the Internet soon afterward, prompting an outcry on campus. One image shows a partygoer with a balloon stuffed under her shirt, making her appear pregnant. In another, a woman wears pink rubber cleaning gloves and carries a feather duster ... Paul Locatelli, president of the nearly 8,400-student Jesuit university, has condemned the party. No students have been disciplined, but a campus spokeswoman said the school is investigating the party and that the university's code of conduct extends to students who live off-campus. A protest march organized by students attracted 250 people Tuesday, and the campus has held meetings and plans a forum for this Thursday.

We didn't throw these kinds of parties when I was an undergrad. I think the closest we got to some kind of "theme" was "Strawberry Rum-Punch Night," which was created from fresh strawberries that I pulvarized with a beer bottle since I didn't own a blender at the time. And oh, how we danced to the English Beat!

I guess if I got invited to this kind of party I could have dressed in a suit, put lifts in my shoes and applied a distinguished goatee. When fellow students asked what I was supposed to be, I'd reply, "My Uncle--art historian, author, and professor of Pre-Columbian art!" Or I could dress as a conquistador, complete with weaponry and god on my side. I'd have worked on something creative. Even Salma Hayek would be a fun costume if you're feeling particularly glamorous.

But these images of what constitute a fun gathering bum me out. It's not like there aren't cholas and janitors and pregnant teens in the world. It's just that dressing like them for a party is...not right in the head. The party was co-thrown by a guy who's half-Mexican, which reminds me of the time my brother was telling a Mexican joke at the dinner table, involving the stealing of some hubcaps, when I interrupted the punchline with, "You know, you're Mexican." The look on his face was much funnier than the joke, and my brother is a good joke-teller.

Sometimes when you grow up in the suburbs, surrounded by people of similar look and background, you forget you're Mexican. But then this news story comes around and it's like a big reminder. So I figure mistakes get made (I know that from lots of experience) and maybe someone who went to this party will learn something about what it means to be Mexican, even if they're not.

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