Is this offensive, or am I too sensitive?

Every spring, my son’s school holds a show in which the entire school participates. Each grade is assigned a country, and the kids do a short singing performance (and sometimes dancing) of songs that represent that country. At the end, there is a finale that includes students from all grades, and they sing a song about peace or unity or something similar. All the parents come to watch this extravaganza.

Normally, I leave after my son’s performance, but last year I stayed for a few minutes and watched a couple of the other grades perform. When the class representing Mexico came up, I was rather appalled to see little boys dressed in sombreros, serapes and big black moustaches. The girls were dressed in colorful dresses that I assume represented traditional Mexican festival clothes.

Am I wrong to be offended by the boys dressed like the Frito Bandito? I think it’s the moustaches that offend me the most. I’m white, but I just think this is perpetuating a stereotype. My son’s grade is doing Italy this year, so it’s not an issue for my kid (yet), but I’m not sure whether to say anything to the principal or not. Am I being overly sensitive, or is this truly offensive?

I think you’re being overly sensitive. I see a lot of Mexicans (usually older men) with big moustaches. It might be a bit stereotypical, but the stereotype didn’t come from nowhere.

ETA, if you do a Google Image Search for “Mexican Man” you’ll see plenty of moustaches. I think moustaches are just more common on Mexicans then on Americans.

Short version: you’re being way over sensitive.

Would you be offended if you saw a similar festival from another country where the kids represented the US with the Golden Arches and a line-dancing number? Sure, it’s not the whole country, but it’s representative.

You remind me of the executive who banished Speedy Gonzales to the wee hours because “it was offensive to Hispanics”. About half a billion Hispanics disagreed with that statement but agreed with the statement that the aforementioned exec was an ass (with our apologies to burros and culos both).

And they’re sarapes.

Overly sensitive.

If it was the only country where the kids dressed up in some kind of national costume, I’d think it was weird and a bit tone deaf. But if the kids dressed up for every country, I’d probably think it was harmless, even though national costumes are a kind of stereotype.

Omigod, that opens the door for so much hilarity: what did they do for France? Wee Apache dancers, with striped t-shirts, berets and torn black stockings?

I generally give this advice out to everybody as a matter of course, but I’ll underline it for you:

You should really avoid the “It’s a Small World” attraction at Disneyland.

I’m curious about what they did for Germany. Lederhosen, M1942 helmets, and dancing to Der Guten Tag Hop Clop?

I don’t think it’s necessarily stereotypical, unless they were being portrayed in a very negative way.

Moustaches are very common among older Mexican men, and women in Mexico really do sometimes wear traditional, colorful dresses.

And then they chased the French kids down the aisles and beat the snot out of them.

I appreciate the comments, I was on the fence about this one. I’ll keep my mouth shut and just enjoy the show! :slight_smile:

Actually, it probably is a bit stereotypical, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s that bad.

Mexican men may stereotypically be portrayed with moustaches–but a lot of them really do have moustaches.

I think things like this are qualitatively different than very offensive comments, like, “Arabs should take flying carpets, not board planes with the rest of us” (paraphrasing Ann Coulter). That’s more than a different level; it’s a different thing IMO.

Here’s the thing - you can’t do that show without stereotypes. At some point, you have to accept the fact that we need some visual to attach to each country, because that’s the way the human brain works. The right answer then, is simply to allow each country to define for itself what that visual will be, rather than peremptorily assigning one to it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folk_costume

It gets a little political at times, especially around the Olympic opening ceremonies and Miss Universe-type pageants http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/worldnews/8749932/Miss-Universe-2011-national-costumes.html

But really, at some point you’ve just got to accept what each names for itself and get on with it. Terrible things happen when folks try to over-define the original costume: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/7916048/Miss-Australias-national-costume-is-a-travesty.html

It’s really OK to assume that your audience understands the presence of alternate personal styles throughout the country. Except North Korea.

I live in San Antonio. They were pretty spot on. Even during our Fiesta celebrations, that’s the attire of the dancers and mariachis.

And the French kids didn’t put up much of a fight.

I don’t think it’s necessarily offensive, but I’ll hijack your thread to ask a question:

Since this picture is probably a lot more indicative of your average grizzled Mexican villager, what good does it do to have kids dress up like comedic caricatures of a bygone era? Same holds true for Germans in lederhosen, Russians in giant fur hats, French people dressed up like mimes, etc. When does “celebrating cultural heritage” turn into “this pointless stereotype is, admittedly, all we understand about Mexican culture?”

And don’t forget the cigarettes!

If kids dressed up like the guy in the first photo, how would we know they were Mexican? The thing is, most people the world over dress more or less the same. Going by the clothes I have on right now, you wouldn’t be able to tell if I was Canadian, British, Argentinian, or Japanese.

In my area (Northern California) when there are cultural days, parades, etc., that is how the Mexicans dress. The women/girls in colorful, full dresses. The men/boys in serapes or Mariachi-type outfits. The men almost always have mustaches. As a kid I used to be so jealous because the girls’ outfits were so much prettier than the prairie-girl stuff I had to wear.

I don’t see anything wrong with it. If Mexicans themselves embrace that aspect of their culture, why shouldn’t school children.

<major snickers>

Somehow, I could actually envision this :smiley: