In Chicago, baseball means a welcome end to a long, hard winter. And Cinco de Mayo is the first holiday that brings people outside to celebrate.
This year the Chicago White Sox embraced Cinco de Mayo and, in the process, made it an unofficial day of Latino pride. In fact, 42% of the crowd that attended the sold-out Cinco de Mayo celebration at Guaranteed Rate Field self-identified as Hispanic, nearly double the 25% of the crowd on the same day in 2018 (Sox Survey, CWS in-park survey program).
Numbers like that suggest the White Sox have tapped into something special: Relying on authenticity to drive sales.
As we all know, Cinco de Mayo is a day of observation for the Mexican Army’s victory over the French in 1862, which is also known as the Battle of Puebla. And while the holiday is not largely celebrated in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo has crossed over to become a rite of spring for partying, mostly by non-Latinos who have little to no knowledge of the history. Latinos no longer consider the day exclusively their own; instead, the fifth of May is a day of harmless appropriation in the guise of mariachi music, tequila drinks, and margaritas.
The White Sox changed the narrative. Instead of ignoring the significance of the day for Latinos, as many organizations do on this day, the team welcomed Latinos for an event that was about heritage. For example:
I was at the game that day and can testify to the cultural pride expressed in the stands and on the field. Instead of letting the holiday devolve into just another homogenous day on the calendar that has lost its meaning, the White Sox purposely created a day that had authenticity to the Latino culture.
Putting culture front and center instead of hiding it shows Latinos that they matter and their culture deserves the spotlight. Instead of Latinos standing on the outside and being forced to participate in a culture that isn’t their own, the White Sox made them the star and encouraged non-Latinos to embrace a culture they may recognize but may never have fully engaged.
That approach is a unifying one. For once, people of all races and ethnicities were able to share music, food, and history that isn’t always celebrated at such a mass scale. The White Sox got people to come together in ways that government leaders often struggle with, making sports the great unifier.
By tapping into Latino pride, the White Sox didn’t just make Latinos feel good about their culture, they shared it with others so they could feel good about it too.
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Photo Credit: 2019 Chicago White Sox/Ron Vesely