• Cinco de Racist Pages



    Cinco de Mayo, a United States’ holiday more aligned with fake mustaches, serapes and drunken debauchery than historical fact commences today. Some believe it is Mexican Independence Day and others, less interested in history, at best patron local Mexican restaurants and at worst, host their own fiesta themed party supplied with pin the tail on the donkey and bottomless margaritas. However, leave it to City Pages to jump start the Mexican bashing early.


    1. The Bashing

    On Monday, May 2, City Pages published an online article, “Alondra Cano flunks city council 101” by Cory Zurowski. The heart of the piece quotes an anonymous city council member’s interpretation of Cano during a city council meeting on the twenty-year neighborhood park plan. Calling Cano “clueless” and “never paying attention,” the article ends with the anonymous council member stating, "We all know who she is. She's lazy. She's all about talking, not working hard."


                Photo Credit: Ryan Stopera 

    In 2013, Cano became the first Latinx elected to Minneapolis’ City Council. On a council of thirteen members, Cano is the only woman of color. She represents Ward-9, one of the most racially and economically diverse wards. Her election reflects a growing Latinx population in Minneapolis.[1] Throughout the entire state there are less than 20 women of color elected officials.



    The City Pages’ article cannot be dismissed simply as unethical journalism or a failure to enact proper Minnesota Nice etiquette. Racist and sexist language relies on coded undertones to bolster white supremacist heteropatriarchal agendas. Legal scholar Ian Haney-López (University of California, Berkeley) argues in Dog Whistle Politics (Oxford, 2014) employment of veiled racial appeals erodes the middle class by stimulating racial fear. In an interview Haney-López states, “They're [politicians] not necessarily bigots; that's the wrong imagery. I think we ought to call them strategic racists, and a strategic racist is someone who strategically, consciously, purposefully sets out to stoke racial anxiety in others for their own ends.”[2] Zurowski’s coded language adds to legions of anti-Mexican rhetoric, which has plagued our nation’s history.[3]

    1. Historical Anti-Mexican Rhetoric

    During the late nineteenth century well into the early twentieth century academic and socio-political narratives employed the term “the Mexican problem,” to justify the systemic inequities within education, housing, employment, and healthcare. The accounts, stemming from a legacy of biological determinism, insist Mexican culture inherently causes Mexican and Mexican Americans to have low intellect and a poor work ethic.


    In the United States, economic downturn historically causes anti-Mexican sentiments to rise. For example, during the Great Depression scarcity narratives erupted claiming that Mexicans were taking jobs and Mexican Americans were delinquent criminals. In a report to the U.S. Congress Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, Dr. Roy I. Garis of Vanderbilt University stated, “Their [Mexicans] minds run to nothing higher than animal functions-eat, sleep, and sexual debauchery. In every huddle of Mexican shacks one meets the same idleness, hordes of hungry dogs, and filthy children with faces plastered with flies, disease, lice, human filth, stench, promiscuous fornication, bastardy, lounging, apathetic peons and lazy squaws, beans and dried chili, liquor, general squalor, and envy and hatred of the gringo. These people sleep by day and prowl by night like coyotes.”[4]


    The “lazy Mexican” perhaps is the most widely known stereotype. It features a brown man in a serape and large sombrero sleeping against a cactus. This image first circulated among white U.S. travelers entering Mexico in the late nineteenth century. For example, in 1907, Nevin O. Winter wrote in Mexico and Her People of Today, "The Indians living in the hills took undisturbed position at night, and groups of tired Indios wrapped themselves in their sarapes [sic], or shawls, and stretched their tired limbs out in the cold stones; or propped themselves against the walls of a building to rest." Travel narratives, originally paternalistic but not explicitly racially coded, viewed Mexican Indigenous people as hard working under the Porfirio Díaz state. However, this image quickly shifted. Mexico invested in a national mestizaje project, which relegated Indigenous people to a mythic past and solidified the subjugation of Indigenous people. In the United States, the sleeping “lazy Mexican” image visually represented “the Mexican problem.”


    Post World War II, the image proliferated. Once welcomed as low-wage workers during the Bracero Program (established in 1942), Mexicans were now seen, once again, as a national threat. Policies such as Operation Wetback coupled with cultural caricatures devalued Mexican and Mexican Americans. Depicted in cartoons, Hollywood films, and cheap ceramic kitsch statues, the sleeping “lazy Mexican” reflected the ethnoracial oppression of the times.


    Today, the mockery and appropriation of Mexican and Chicanx culture persists, especially during Cinco de Mayo. City Pages perpetuates historical tropes camouflaging anti-Mexican hate under the guise of objective journalism. Doubled with the long tradition of dismissing women of color’s intellect and labor, City Pages renders Latinas, specifically Cano, as uneducated and lazy.



    1. Chicana/Latina Leadership in Minnesota


    In a political climate when university campuses across the nation experience high volumes of hate-speech chalked on walkways and violence ensues at Trump rallies, this type of dog whistle politics and fear-mongering journalism continues to conjure historical racist tropes.


    As a born and raised Minnesotan and Chicana resident in Ward 9, I observe first hand the continued divestment by local elected officials to advocate for communities of color and Native people. My support for City Council Member Cano is not tied to some shallow identity politics, an affinity solely because we are Latinas. I support her office for continuously working with residents to push forth racial justice policy. When I attend city council meetings I witness repeated dismissal of her leadership, which extends beyond healthy democratic debate. Her bravery to consistently speak out against environmental racism, sex trafficking, and gentrification requires a high level of sophistication and intellect. Too often women of color leadership in the Twin Cities is downplayed, erased, and discredited. The struggle to remain active, persist, and accomplish social change under white supremacist heteropatriarchy is a survival skill. ¡La lucha sigue!




    Jessica Lopez Lyman is a PhD Candidate in Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara and an instructor in the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies at the University of Minnesota. Twitter @chstlopezlyman.


    [1] In 2010, Latinxs comprised over 10.5% of the total population and state-wide the Latinx population increased 75% between 2000 and 2010. The demographic shift matches national trends where regions across the United States have seen similar increases (U.S. Census 2010).

    [2] Haney-López, Ian. Interview. “Talking in Codes.” The Chicago Reporter. 44.1 (Winter 2015): 14-15.

    [3] Cary McWilliams. 1948. North from Mexico: The Spanish Speaking People of the United States. See “The Mexican Problem.”

    [4] Rudy Acuña. 1981. Occupied America. 2nd edition. New York: Harper and Row, 136.



  • Comments on this post (0 comments)

  • Leave a comment

Added to cart