January 5 2017
Jillian Kay Melchior
Cultural appropriation is OK as long as a cultural icon comes from a “private, capitalist enterprise,” says Tucson Weekly’s “Ask a Mexican” columnist.
Earlier this week, the column received an inquiry about Lotería cards, signed “Not Columbusing, Just Asking.”
The Mexican game is similar to bingo, played with 54 tarot-like cards. But the iconic images, including El Diablito, La Muerte, and the bare-breasted mermaid La Sirena, are often used decoratively, too– which prompted the letter writer’s concerns about cultural appropriation.
Gustavo Arellano of Tucson Weekly begins his response by bemoaning how “gabachos have appropriated Mexican everything ever since they took our cuitlaxochitl flowers and renamed them poinsettias after some pendejo ambassador or other.”
But Lotería cards get a pass, he says—in large part because they are “the intellectual property of Don Clement, Inc., a for-profit company.”
“We’re talking about a private, capitalist enterprise here, not la pinche Virgin of Guadalupe,” Arellano writes.
We can’t blame the inquirer for being confused. Who knew that disdain for capitalism somehow beats out cultural-appropriation zeal?
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.