News | Student Life

Chicano Caucus faces criticism for photos after public response to Kappa Alpha Theta

  • CHICANO CAUCUS | Students at a Chicano Caucus station during Glass House Rocks posed wearing mustaches with posters with face cutouts of a man in a sombrero and a woman with a flower in her hair.
  • CHICANO CAUCUS | Students at a Chicano Caucus station during Glass House Rocks posed wearing mustaches with posters with face cutouts of a man in a sombrero and a woman with a flower in her hair.

Updated 3:10 a.m., with statement from Chicano Caucus.

After the Chicano Caucus released a statement criticizing Kappa Alpha Theta sisters for dressing up as other nationalities at an Olympics-themed mixer this weekend, Bwog published photos on Monday that showed students posing with stereotypically Mexican-themed cutouts at a Chicano Caucus station at Glass House Rocks. 

The photos, which were posted on the Chicano Caucus’ public Facebook page, show students holding up posters with face cutouts painted with images of a man wearing a sombrero and a woman with a flower in her hair. The students posing with the male cutout also wore mustaches.

The Bwog post read, “While the actions aren’t equivalent and the group has the right to do whatever it wants with its culture, we can’t help but think that Chicano Caucus may have been perpetuating ‘the stereotype of the sombrero-wearing Mexican-American migrant worker’ with this one.”

Many comments on the Bwog post expressed similar sentiments as the article, calling Chicano Caucus hypocritical.

The Chicano Caucus executive board released a statement early Tuesday morning apologizing for any offense the cutouts may have caused but reiterating its earlier call for further discussion on cultural appropriation.

“It is regrettable that only one of the many aspects we sought to share was singled out, neglecting the overarching theme.  However, our event at Glass House Rocks was far from a trivial representation of our Mexican heritage; it was a means through which we paid tribute to one of the many cultures within Mexico, combating the very issue of cultural unawareness.  We attempted to address the stereotypes imposed upon us by showcasing their underlying truths: the places and peoples they actually pertain to. It is very easy to release certain images without context, and we feel that this is only taking away from the real issue at hand,” the statement said.

The statement added that Chicano Caucus will be hosting an open meeting to discuss the topic on Feb. 27 at 9 p.m. 

Monday afternoon, before Chicano Caucus released its statement, a Bwog comment attributed to Martin Perez Colon, SEAS '17 and co-education chair of the Chicano Caucus, responded to the other comments directed at the group.

“There is a huge difference between when a group tries to reclaim its stereotypes and use them in a positive manner and when someone else just reaches for them because they’re easily accessible,” read the comment.

Colon later confirmed to The Lion that he did post it.

“So instead of looking at this as a hypocrisy, look at the context of both instances. There’s a reason people feel insulted, and our campus’s reaction shouldn’t be rushing to take sides, but instead trying to understand why it is that a group feels hurt,” Colon wrote. “I’m in the Chicano Caucus, and I’m not yelling back at anyone. I’m not even calling for the sorority to get in trouble. I’m just asking that people don’t be so thoughtless when reaching for potentially offensive stereotypes to represent a group. Because it hurts.”

In a statement released to Spectator yesterday, the Chicano Caucus criticized the costumes worn by Kappa Alpha Theta members.

“While we understand that the actions taken by these members may not have intended to be harmful, they were in fact offensive,” the statement said. “Stereotypes are used to oppress marginalized communities. These pictures caricaturize Mexican culture and should not be overlooked. The attire trivializes an entire nation’s history, its peoples, and its cultures, reducing them to a mere mustache and sombrero.”

“The term ‘cultural appropriation’ is not one that is discussed often at Columbia, and it is not one that is easy to define. We hope that these photos promote campus-wide discussions as to what ‘cultural appropriation’ entails and why it is a controversial topic to groups who are often the subjects of such actions,” the statement said.

Columbia's Inter-Greek council released a statement early Tuesday morning that said the group was "working on campus-wide initiatives that will improve upon the current dialogue surrounding social awareness issues at our University.” 

“We are committed to addressing the issues at hand and will be sure to further communicate with the greater community regarding our efforts," the statement said.

The photos of the Kappa Alpha Theta sisters showed them dressed up as different nationalities, including a Mexican team that wore sombreros, mustaches, and T-shirts with a Mexican flag with the coat of arms replaced with the Greek letter theta, a Japanese team that wore pigtails, chopsticks, and high socks, and an individual dressed up as Ireland, holding a sign that said ‘Kiss me, I’m a famined potato.”

In a statement to Spectator on Monday, Columbia Japan Society President Moeko Nakada, BC ’15, said, “I’m sure that the sisters of Kappa Alpha Theta had no ill intentions to hurt the members of the Japanese community but it is still truly regretful and hurtful that they chose to perceive and interpret our country through such behavior.”

“I hope that this incident can provide an opportunity for the sisters of Kappa Alpha Theta to deeply reflect upon their actions,” Nakada said.

In a statement on Monday, Interim Dean of Student Affairs Terry Martinez said she was “saddened and disappointed to learn of students in our community participating in costume caricatures of several different nationalities.”

“While the intention may have been harmless, the actions taken have had an impact that may have not been intended,” Martinez added.

Chicano Caucus’ open meeting is on Feb. 27 at 9 p.m. According to Tuesday morning's statement, details on the location of the meeting can be obtained by contacting the Chicano Caucus presidential co-chairs, Rubén Chaidez (rc2756@columbia.edu) and Trinidad Reyes (tr2349@columbia.edu).

Check back for updates. 

elizabeth.sedran@columbiaspectator.com  |  @ezactron

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Anonymous posted on

thank you.

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Anonymous posted on

about time spec posted this.

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Anonymous posted on

As a dutch citizen, I too got super offended when I saw the Asian girl dressing up as a dutch stereotype. As if we all drink beer... The other ones were okay though, because they probably have dutch ancestors, plus: "There is a huge difference between when a group tries to reclaim its stereotypes and use them in a positive manner and when someone else just reaches for them because they're easily accessible"

http://totalfratmove.com/columbia-university-thetas-dress-as-other-nationalities-for-beer-olympics-people-unsurprisingly-get-super-offended/

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German Citizen posted on

There are only two things I hate in this world: those who are intolerant of others' cultures, and the Dutch

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'Murican posted on

As an American Citizen, I was more outraged and offended than Bill O'Reilly, Al Sharpton, Sarah Palin, and Nancy Grace rolled into one when I heard that our American Flag and the American People had been desecrated by those students at their frat party. How dare they mock the values of our Founding Fathers, our Constitution, even our very own Walmarts and McDonalds??? How dare they desecrate our Flag by wearing It? Today, America weeps---tomorrow she calls for vengeance!
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Yeah, no, can we just chill out Columbia?

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Anonymous posted on

Hilarious. How is this any different?

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Jay posted on

This is not any different than what the Theta girls did. As a latino, I am not excusing neither groups. One would expect students at this level of their education to know better. I am disappointed in my peers in both Theta and in Chicano Caucus.

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Outraged posted on

as a Latino i am completely outraged that Chicano Caucus deliberately portrayed our proud people with demeaning sombrero hats and mustaches and then had the nerve to post it on the inter-webs! I demand that everyone in Chicano Caucus be expelled immediately because my feeling are hurt very bad!!!

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Ray Caban posted on

When did CU students get so sensitive? Oh wait, these are the same students saving the world with signs on low steps as the picket while sipping a cafe mocha. Out of all the first world problems these students have, I'm surprised they chose to tackle this "offensively Olympic themed party". Sigh, i guess the entire bar industry should stop celebrating cinco de mayo.

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Ray Caban posted on

I guess to single out the Chicano caucus on my prior comment isn't fair. That being said, the other groups are being overly sensitive as well and are joining this bandwagon because it finally gives them something to write about. Be offended if they dressed as a vending maching filled with used panties or be offended if they dressed up as an overcrowded prison that displays a drug addict with one foot in and one foot out but not over this nonsense. If people are really offended, Columbia should start a party planning committe that represents everyone in the community.... Wait you might take me seriously.

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Chill down posted on

What else do you expect from the so called "Greek community", but to do such silly things? (No offense intended to the real Greeks, form whom these societies borrow their name). At least this time it's harmless, and certainly not ill intentioned. Whatever happened with the sense of humor? On the other hand, living in a diverse community such as Columbia, I hope they'll have the chance to learn from the real Mexicans, Japanese, Jamaicans, Dutch, French, etc.

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Anonymous posted on

Stop being so hyper-sensitive. Frankly who cares about all this?

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Anonymous posted on

I am from a third world country I definitely understand what it is like to have the world around you distort and oppress your country and culture through misleading images. However, the solution here is not to campaign against them, but rather reach out to them and ask them to join one of your meetings. That way, they will become more educated and you will have achieved your goal of raising awareness. Chicano Causes' response is counter productive because right now, all Chicanco Caucus has successfully accomplished is making sure members of Theta forever associate Mexicans and their culture with all this undeserved drama and harassment.

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Noel posted on

Some are more equal than others in Terry Martinez's world along with the 'very few' who make up these 'special interest' caucuses.
Martinez needs a real job and the hypocrites who make up the Chicano caucus(and all other cultural/race only groups) need to hit the books more and stop annoying everyone with their own self-importance/righteous BS.

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Jose Cuervo posted on

He makes a good point. Mexicans, much to their detriment, ARE Mexican. (Shhh... don't tell anybody.)

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OrangePicker posted on

Ye ole "Yer daddy wore a sombrero syndome"; I get it. A Chicano, criticizing Chicanos, for celebrating their culture, as if he himself is not doing the Pedro for pesos.

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Ray Pena posted on

I express my Opinion to the Face Book Page of the Chicano Caucus and was soundly removed! My views are very Pro-American I.E. The America's! I told them to Stop this P.C. Bull-S#*T and invite more White People to their parties and show them Latin Culture but they would rather Silence a Dissenting Opinion....... By the way that is something they do in Socialist/Communist Countries!

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A student posted on

"and invite more White People to their parties",as if there are only white people this country. Oh may be all Americans in Columbia are white. What do I know.

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Anonymous posted on

This is completely ridiculous. It's a costume party! There is nothing wrong with dressing up like a culture! Why is it offensive? Stereotype? No, the sombrero is a hat that was worn in Mexico! If they showed up as maids and gardeners then that's a stereotype! Come on...

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