Ver para creer

My friend, a very modest advertising creative (yes, there are still some of those left) who prefers to remain in anonimity, has just forwarded me a story which I considered too good to ignore: It turns out José Feliciano has just launched Reflections, a personal line of … sunglasses.

Reflections was designed by Feliciano himself and it is based on several of his famous songs. “I might be blind, but I consider myself a visionary,” the 61-year-old cantante said during a press conference where he announced the launch of Reflections.

Customers will be able to chose from several models, branded with the following names: “Señor Bolero”, “Nuestro Amor”, “Paso la Vida Pensando”, “Le, lo lai”, “Qué Será”, “I’ve Got a Feeling”, “California Dreamin”, among others.
And for those of you wondering: prices range from $180 to $300, and will come with a certificate of authenticity written in Braille, of course. (Though we still don’t know if this will be in English, Spanish, Spanglish or both).

Analyze this!

I guess you can say there is nothing new on the Internet, but today I came across a very interesting site, whose name I just adore: Psiquealo. Presumably from the prefix “psique,” the site offers a platform (or shall I say virtual couch) for those affected souls who want to let out all their frustrations, but probably cannot afford a real shrink.

According to the site’s founders, Psiquealo has over 5,000 registered users coming from all over Latin America, but most recently saw an increase in U.S. Hispanic visitors. Among my favorite features on the site, are the most frequently used words: sadness, love, jealousy, confusion, unfaithfulness and, of course, sex.

What I learned from telenovelas

According to a story on today’s New York Times, the Federal Communications Commission fined Univision with a record fine of $24 million for falling short on regulators’ expectations for educational children’s programming. Univision had long maintained that telenovelas were educational programs, but the regulators didn’t quite buy it and now the network must pay.

Not so fast. After a long day of debating the subject with some of my Mexican friends, we came to the conclusion that telenovelas are in fact very educational, and that there is plenty we all learned from them while growing up in Mexico.

1. We learned that the “ricos” also cry. In other words, that rich, famous and blonde people also suffer, and sometimes even more than the rest of the mortals.

2. We learned that, no matter how good or bad she was in the kitchen, the maid will always end up marrying the señorito de la casa (as long as she looks like Thalía, of course)

3. Blacks are always poor but nice people who are very good at taking care of strangers’ babies (ask Verónica Castro)

4. It is possible to kill your enemies and hide the poison inside your make-believe eye patch.

5. Evil-doers always end up burnt, dead, in prison or living in Miami.

6. We learned that to become really, really, really ugly, you just have to put on glasses and use a very large retainer for your teeth.

7. We learned that if you live in certain Mexico City neighborhoods (or rather, zip codes), you qualify to star in a hot telenovela. Of course, if you are very very tan, are not older than 16, have blonde hair and blue eyes and have a daddy with a house in Acapulco, as the kids from Codigo Postal can show you here

Non-Hispanics need not apply

Do you think Hispanics are discriminated against? Not in Phoenix.
A publicly traded corporation this week agreed to pay almost half a million dollars to end a discrimination suit that started two years ago when federal investigators found Hispanics were routinely hired over job candidates from other ethnic groups.

According to a story published today in Phoenix’ East Valley Tribune, the rejected candidates include 11 Asians, 66 blacks, 17 American Indians, and 370 whites, who were deemed qualified job applicants but were not hired simply because they were not Hispanic.

OK, it’s not that these guys were missing out on a very fancy job. The company in question is the Corrections Corporation of America, the firm running a state prison in Florence, Phoenix, and one of the country’s largest private prison firms. (By the way, the guy featured on the company’s Web site does not look very Latino to me, so there’s something fishy here)

Besides the economic penalty, the suit established the Florence Correctional Center also must undergo a future audit by federal investigators to determine if it has met the federal hiring standards. If the prison has not changed its hiring practices by then, the company could face stiff penalties including fines or termination of its government contracts.

No possibility of jail time was mentioned. Too bad, it would have been a convenient penalty to comply with.

The other Aznar

Analyzing Cuba can be a confusing task. Thankfully, a group of Miami journalists is here to help. In a statement released Friday via Hispanic PR Wire, Mega TV announces the debut of Pronósticos, a program which “will analyze the future of Cuba as the country prepares for a leadership transition following the eventual passing of Fidel Castro.”

What’s confusing about this? Well among the “notable” guests featured on the show are Alvaro Vargas Llosa, political analyst and son of Mario Vargas Llosa and “Francisco Aznar,” ex president of the Spanish government.

Qué???? Last time I checked, the guy formerly running Spain was José María Aznar, whose full name is actually José María Alfredo Aznar López. Where on earth did they get Francisco?

Now I wonder if the show’s host, Carlos Alberto Montaner, might not actually be Venezuelan singer and songwriter Ricardo Montaner (born Eduardo Reglero). Confused? Well, so am I!

Let it be Fox … please!

Quoting “unnamed sources,” the New York Post this week reported former Mexican president Vicente Fox is being considered for the top post at Univision, as the network readies to change hands in April.

What a golden opportunity for Hispanic media journalists! A Univision under Fox will give us writing material for generations to come. Unlike publicity-shy Jerry Perenchio and his lieutenants, Mr. Fox will surely exploit his status as a media mogul to come out and speak his mind like never before.

Press reports say Univision’s new owners are looking for a high-status bilingual executive with close ties to Mexico. So there you go: Mr. Fox has definitely a “high-status” (not to mention he stands six feet four inches tall); he is -of course- bilingual and nobody can dispute his close ties to Mexico. So please, Mr. Saban, do us a favor: make Fox your CEO and give us some entertainment for the years to come.

Ay Mis Hijos!

aymijo.jpgEver wonder why there are so many Latino janitors, gardeners, maids and buss boys? … Probably because nobody ever told them they might be better off as engineers, mathematicians or plain scientists. Duh!

But this might change soon thanks to the upcoming publication of Ay mijo, why do you want to be an Engineer?, a new book endorsed by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) “as a way to get the word out to young people about the benefits of pursuing a career in the field.”

According to SHPE’s Web site, this is the second volume in the Ay Mija / Ay Mijo series (yep, there is a series!) and it tells the inspirational stories of 12 Latino engineers, including NASA Astronaut Jose Hernandez, and some other fellows who work for some big corporations, including Proctor [sic] & Gamble.

By the way: after an active one month and a half looking for a decent job to no avail, I have seriously considered joining the fray and write my own Ay Mija, Why Did You Want to be a Journalist?

El dia del “pankeik”

Do you know what day is today?

It is “El Día Nacional del Pancake,” or National Pancake Day, an annual celebration which dates back to the 15th century, but has become a valuable marketing vehicle for …  pancake restaurants, of course.

In a quirky 30-second spot airing these days on the Univision and Telemundo affiliates in the New York City area, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez invites Latinos to join him in this very special celebration by visiting their local IHOP (International House of Pancakes), which will donate 10% of sales to food banks throughout the states of New York, New Jersey and Southern Connecticut.

Of course Mr. Menendez forgets to make a full disclosure. Not only IHOP is the perfect brand to be behind the P.R. effort, but it is actually his favorite eatery in the world! It is almost impossible to forget that 24 hours after winning a full term in the U.S. Senate, Menendez made his first public appearence at a local IHOP in Union City, New Jersey, his hometown.

Press reports at the time (November 8, 2006) stated Menendez even went as far as to ask a manager for a list of restaurants across the Garden State so he could stop in for a bite while on the campaign trail. However, what Menendez seemed to avoid in his latest pitch for IHOP is the fact that he is actually on an Atkins Diet: a manager at IHOP boasted he knew the Senator’s breakfast choice by heart: “Hash and eggs, over medium, rye toast with butter on the side and coffee with cream and equal, plus a glass of water.”

Mmm, Qué paso con el pancake Senator?

Chicken wings

All of us tired of seeing everything Made in China lately, should get some consolation in the fact that, soon, the Chinese will start complaining about Latin Americans getting in the way of their culinary tradition.

Barely two weeks after El Fogoncito announced the opening of a taqueria in China, Pollo Campero, the ubiquitous fast-food chain, which originated 35 years ago in Guatemala City, opened its first family restaurant in Jakarta, the first of several outlets it plans to open in Indonesia. But Campero’s Asian ambitions do not stay there. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony in Jakarta’s Sarinah business district, the company said the second opening in Asia is scheduled for May of this year in Shanghai, China. The company’s president Juan Jose Gutierrez is ambitious: he expects Campero to open 500 restaurants in the next five years in Shanghai, Beijing and Wuhan.

Granted, El Fogoncito might have something to teach the Chinese in terms of making real tacos al pastor, but pollo? That might be a tough one. We can only wait and see how Campero, which claims to not serve fast-food, but “excellent food served extremely fast,” pulls its strings to win over the hearts –and stomachs- of the Chinese.

Santo! Santo!

Move over Speedy Gonzalez. The Cartoon Network is hoping to boost audiences by bringing to life a favorite Mexican icon: wrestling legend El Santo (aka El Enmascarado de Plata or the Man in the Silver Mask)

Produced by Cartoon Network and created by the son of Santo, the series is yet to be titled but according to Turner Broadcasting, it will feature El Santo as he battles all sorts of evil in his native Mexico.

I cannot wait to see if the new animated Santo will keep his kitsch-like image and golden touch with the ladies (who were always wearing mini-skirts for some reason). Maybe not. After all this is Cartoon Network we’re talking about, and politically-correctness seems to go hand in hand with the image of today’s heroes.

Let’s just hope that el nuevo Santo, who became famous for fighting vampires, Martians, snakes and other mean creatures, will not end up fighting pollution or corruption. That would be a real turn off.

Legally tacky

Greenberg & Stein, a New York City-based firm specializing in injury law, greets visitors to its Web site with a very serious and professional look: a sober blue and white home page features the Manhattan skyline in the background and the usual navigation tools to move around the page (Home, About Us, Contact, FAQ, etc.) The information offered is pretty straight forward. Not bad for a firm promising clients a top of the line service and professional legal advice.

But when it comes to the firm’s Hispanic marketing, these guys loosen up like there’s no tomorrow! Greenberg & Stein are the same lawyers behind 1-888-Luchadores, a firm promising Latinos the best defense against “mean” landlords and sneaky insurance companies. And their Web page, is plain hilarious.

Not only the text in Spanish is a calamity (Wrongful death becomes “muerte injusta” and Click here is translated as “chasquea abajo”) but as soon as you sign in, you are greeted by a 30-second video featuring a boxing match between a sick old woman on a wheelchair and two very mean-looking guys: her insurance agent and her “casero malo” (mean landlord).

It’s not very often that we get to laugh at lawyers, so check out these guys Spanish-language site. You’ll have a blast!

Where do this people get their marketing advice?

Dios sin barreras

If Geico picked cavemen to pitch car insurance and Budweiser opted for manly men to sell more beer, why can’t Lexicon just bring out God?

In its latest marketing effort, Inglés sin Barrreras has a new ad out pitching its costly English-language course to Latinos. A 60-second spot currently running on Univision features a couple of presumably recent immigrants talking -in Spanish- about how learning English has changed their lives in America. At some point, the man switches to a perfect English while subtitles in Spanish show up on screen. But then the woman intervenes to make a final, perfect pitch in Spanish. “I think [Inglés sin Barreras] is a medium sent to us by God himself to make it to this country.” (Yo creo que es un medio que Dios nos ha proveido [sic] para progresar.)

Wow. I wonder how many politically-correct gringo companies can ever get away with that one. But hey, in the increasingly competitive business of selling English-language courses to Hispanics, God must be an infallible tool. Who can beat that?

Not that kind of salsa

What do you get when you order chips & salsa in a Spanish restaurant? A full order of disappointment.

This frigid afternoon, while killing some time before a movie, I sat down for a drink at El Quijote, the famous Spanish restaurant-bar just below the Chelsea Hotel.

I was minding my own business when a woman at the other end of the bar was having a heated conversation with the bartender, trying to send back an order of “something” she was not satisfied with. I could not really understand what was happening, but there was a clear disagreement over her order. A minute later, she turned to me: –Excuse me!– she said: –Do you want these?– she said, pointing at a plate of French fries and a bottle of Ketchup. –“No, thanks”, I said, and went back to my reading. –See? these people just don’t get it”– she told me, this time raising her voice and making it clear to Mr. Nava (the bartender) that she was referring to him. “I ordered chips and salsa and this is what I got! French fries and Ketchup. What kind of a Spanish restaurant is this?”

She kept talking to herself while putting on a sweater, another sweater, coat, gloves and hat, probably regretting the moment she walked through that door, hoping to get a true Mexican (or shall I say Tex-Mex?) gastronomical experience at El Quijote. No matter the restaurant’s logo is El Quijote himself, and the signs read “Authentic Spanish food” all over. When it comes to Spanish, Latin or Hispanic whatever, it’s all chips & salsa to them.

Playing with dolls

What is it with grown-ups and dolls?

It turns out now that the “teenagers” featured in Rebelde and RBD, the telenovela and music ensamble brought to you by Televisa, will now be immortalized by Mattel in the form of three new Barbie dolls: Mia, Roberta and Lupita, each dressed in their signature school uniform consisting of a blazer, a tie and a not-very-long denim skirt. Read the story, in Spanish, here.

Not that I care too much for dolls, but the news of Barbie going Rebelde came almost at the same time as a retired U.S. Force Hispanic woman announced the creation of Gabriella, an 18-inch “truly Hispanic” doll, who wears nothing fancy (jeans, a turtleneck sweater) and has long, straight black hair and, of course, big brown eyes.

In an interview with a local newspaper in Belleville, Illinois, Mary Alvarez-Pearson says she came up with the idea of Gabriella because she wanted to make sure that when a Hispanic girl looked at her, she could see herself. Well, while that’s a very noble thought, I am sorry to inform her that thanks to television and advertising, Hispanic girls don’t want to look anything remotely like them (or their mothers, grandmothers, etc.) In fact, they’d rather look like Barbie, regardless of its encarnation.

And that is why most likely sales of Barbie Rebelde will go to the roof (just like anything else associated with that uninteresting telenovela) and Gabriella might just as well become a nice, collectible item for the nostalgic type.

Breasts vs. brains

In his self-published book, Secretos de Impacto, former Univision reporter Pablo Padula speaks of rivalries among celebrities, “biased” news coverage and even some juicy sex gossip involving top executives during the 14-plus years he worked at the Spanish-language network. Read the full story here.

Granted. I am not going to take a blank check from someone who worked at Primer Impacto to begin with. But some of Padula’s reflexions are just too amusing to ignore.

Take the cleavage factor. 

Does Univision really want us to believe that Jackie Guerrido got a job thanks to her weather expertise? Or that Barbara Bermudo and Myrka Dellanos would be the network’s favorite damiselas if they were over 50, overweight or flat-chested? Does Roxana Franco spring to mind as your ultimate sports expert? Mmmm. I’m not so sure. As they say in my family: “Piensa mal y acertaras.” (Think wickedly and you will be right). Click here to get a taste of what gringos have to say about “Ms. Univision”. (Ladies beware: not politically-correct stuff here).

But I disgress. Padula says he’s surprised Univision has not yet come forward with a lawsuit. And he actually sounds quite disappointed about it. However, from his tranquil refuge in Barranquilla, he says he’s working on a second book on the Univision saga. Stay tuned.

Full disclosure: Though I’ve never been employed by Univision, I did write a small piece today on “En el hoyo,” Juan Carlos Rulfo’s wonderful documentary on the workers of the Second Deck of el Periferico.