Thursday, April 16, 2009

Obama's visit and the Burger King ads that ticked off Mexicans

Burger King operators in Spain and Great Britain launched what they thought was a clever ad campaign for their new Texican burger showing a cowboy and pint-sized Mexican wrestler wrapped in the national flag.

The ads in Spanish media had the slogan "United by destiny, have it your way" to promote a burger with a spicy Mexican kick to it. Mexico's ambassador to Spain protested that the ads denigrated his countrymen, and Burger King pulled the European ad campaign April 14.

By that time, the ads had already created a sensation in the Mexican press and became a gold mine for political commentary. This cartoon in Milenio by the cartoonist known as Rapé, published the day before Obama's visit to Mexico, shows Mexican President Felipe Calderon in the role of the little wrestler behind the border Wall. (My nephew, Ben Breiner, tells me that the ads might be a parody of the Jack Black movie “Nacho Libre.”)

Although we Americans are almost completely ignorant of our sordid treatment of Mexico over the past 200 years, Mexicans know it all too well. (What we depict as Manifest Destiny, to cite just one example, they regard as the outright theft of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah Nevada, Wyoming and California.). So they are very touchy about anything that depicts them as inferior.

Just watch this 30-second commercial (in English) and draw your own conclusions.

Mexicans are not without a sense of humor. At least one columnist, Carlos Mota of Milenio, had a different take on the television ad. He said he couldn't understand why the ambassador would be so critical of ads that in his opinion raised Mexican's stature.

First, the Mexican in the ad, who advertises for a roommate, has a house and more disposable income than the cowboy.
He's stronger: he opens a jar that the Texan can't. Not to mention that the wrestler can swim and likes animals (the ad for a roommate said, "pets welcome" and the Texan brought his horse). And finally, he's a patriot, wrapping himself in the green, white and red of his country's flag.

Extreme politeness
Unlike Europeans, who do not hesitate to criticize Americans' to their faces in social situations, Mexicans are very restrained on the matter of culture and politics, and are extremely polite. Some might say they are polite to a fault.

But these ads touched a nerve, and the image of a cowboy in particular was a bitter reminder of how America over the centuries has bullied its neighbor to the south.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:20 AM

    I think a big part of the add was to try and parody the movie "Nacho Libre" with Jack Black. He plays a Mexican monk who dreams of becoming a professional wrestler.

    Not an Oscar winner.