I wanted to check out the Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Los Angeles, so I attended one on Olvera Street, a well-known Mexican-themed place. I had thought of it as a shopping center, but it seems more like a park when you visit it.
My first observation was that there were hundreds, no, thousands of people. The place was absolutely packed with people.
There were the usual carnival fare, which seemed pretty much what you'd see anywhere in the US - themed rides, shooting games, a water slide, cotton candy and the like. The only consistent Mexican theme was the food.
... and the T-shirts. I have to say I was a bit appalled by the T-shirt selection. Not, you understand, that I believe in restricting people's freedom of speech. But when you see a shirt that says "America: Land of the Free" with barbed wire in front of the flag and what looked like skulls instead of stars, you begin to get the point. There was also a sizable supply of T-shirts that feted Che and his fellow Cuban revolutionaries - but curiously, not Castro. I guess Che died before he could do anything bad.
The Revolutionary Communist Party was there in force - there were about five or six of them and a giant sign with a collage of their materials. The RCP had been around for years, and it didn't look like their Revolutionary Worker was getting much attention, although I took a copy for laughs. I visited their bookstore many years ago and had fun debating the staff (taking the capitalist side), but sadly the staff seem to have lost their friendly nature over the years. One of them tried to hide his face as I took his picture.
One fellow wore a T-shirt that seemed to contradict the sunny impression we get above. It was something like "I am not Latino. I am not Hispanic. I am Mexican." Apparently Spanish folks invaded Mexico and did some Bad Things; therefore, Mexicans are Mexicans. I found this division interesting.
I engaged this fellow in conversation after asking to take his picture. I pointed out that he would probably have been a lot worse off in Mexico, so perhaps it's just as well that we oppressors took over.
Surprisingly enough, he agreed, and in quite a friendly tone, too.
So I'm not sure if the people buying them understand how hostile the shirts seem to outsiders.
If you'd like to see the pictures, I have 'em in my digital camera and will be saving them tonight. If you're curious to see them, write a reply to this or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll make sure to let you know when I put them up.
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