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‘It’s just wrong’: Mexican students slate Sheffield SU for declaring sombreros racist

The move has backfired, badly

Sheffield SU is under fire from Mexican students for "wrongly" warning them not to wear sombreros, claiming they are racist and offensive.

The Uni of Sheffield Students' Union has urged students not to wear the popular hats on nights out because they "appropriate" Mexican culture, as revealed by The Tab Sheffield on Wednesday.

But now the SU officers behind the move, none of whom are from Mexico, are facing a backlash from Sheffield's Mexican student community who feel offended by the guidance – not sombreros.

The Sheffield Tab spoke to multiple Mexican students after the story's publication, many of whom ridiculed the SU's interpretation of their feelings, with one saying simply: "It's just a hat."

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The posters around the SU

Carlos Ayala Romero, a Uni of Sheffield student from Mexico, said: "Mexican people are different and we love seeing people dressed with Mexican costumes as sombreros, we don’t see it as something against our culture or that they’re making fun of us.

"Simply is another way to get dressed, look awesome and be part of our culture."

Read more: 75 per cent of students reject SU sombrero warning

The sombrero guidance forms part of a radical new Sheffield SU scheme tackling many popular fancy dress costumes that staff deem too "offensive" or "mocking or demeaning another person's race, culture or disability".

A series of new posters have been made in collaboration with the SU's BME committee. One, picturing a sombrero as an example of cultural appropriation, states: "My culture is not your costume."

Another states: "My disability, impairment, condition or illness is not your costume."

Memo Maldonado, a Mexican student who has just completed an MSc in Manufacturing Technology at the uni, also hit out at SU bosses.

He told The Tab Sheffield: "I have lived all my life in Mexico and nobody wears those hats in everyday life, even we wear them as a costume!"

Sheffield SU said that sombreros "perpetuate negative stereotypes" around race and culture, but Maldonado disagreed.

"Sombreros are part of Mexico's past and that is why I am proud that foreigners wear them since they do not, it reflects no bad stereotype, it's just a hat," he said.

A third year architecture student from Mexico, who wished to remain anonymous, added: "A sombrero is just a hat at the end of the day, and most Mexicans would tell you that they enjoy seeing people embracing their culture.

"Even if it is in a fun way like on nights out, it's not like people are taking the piss out of it either."

In response to the criticism, Rosa Tully, the SU officer behind the new guidance, stood by her attempts to "encourage students to question the common practice of cultural appropriation in Halloween costumes and celebrations".