Mexicans wear awful hats … and will give you AIDS

Talk about ads that speak for themselves. This print campaign was assigned by Marie Stopes, a British NGO, warning Brits about the dangers of unprotected sex. What’s more embarrassing -his hat or what he might give you? asks the copy showing, what else?, a guy wearing a big Mexican hat (similar to that of my friend Pedro, from Pedroland)


According to Mexico’s press reports, the NGO has apologized to the Mexican government, saying it was not its intention to single out Mexicans as purveyors of deadly diseases, and that the posters were distributed through several British clinics years ago.

OK, but what about the hat? can someone tell the Brits that –even though we ALL wear these things on our heads– we don’t actually write the word MEXICO on them… How ignorant is that?

Gonzales’ fallout not bad for Hispanics: Professor


One has to be thankful for political analysts and university professors who share with us, mortals, their insight and wisdom about current events. Take Cal Jillson, a political science professor at the Southern Methodist University, who recently was quoted in the press analyzing the fallout of Alberto Gonzales.

“He was a Republican more than he was Hispanic in his adult life,” Mr. Jillson told The Dallas Morning News.

And wait, he’s not alone: apparently a growing number of “analysts” and Latino activists have concluded that Gonzales’ fallout was a matter of ethics not ethnicity, and that it shouldn’t be interpreted as a fallout of the Hispanic community.

Really?? And to think that I had been on the wrong side of the analysis all along, thinking we (Hispanics, Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and people with names like Martinez, Gonzalez or Rodriguez) were all creepy, disgusting politicians.

Well, I also thought Salma Hayek’s engagement to one of the world’s richest men meant all Mexican single women over 40 were destined for a similar future. Oh dear…

Sleepy Mexican pitches tacky tourism oasis


If you ever take the I-95 road going North from South Carolina you will hit South of the Border, a tourist attraction featuring all kinds of fun and entertainment “Mexican-style” para toda la familia. The place includes a dedicated amusement park, Pedroland, named after the site’s “lovable mascot:” a sleepy Mexican called, what else? Pedro. Visitors are greeted by a gigantic sombrero-clad character (Pedro?) who stands guard outside a gift shop, while cars roll between its legs.

Described by its owners as “a unique amalgam of Dixie and Old Mexico” South of the Border offers visitors the added benefit that “its inhabitants speak English and its water is safe to drink.” The tacky tourism oasis employs around 750 people, all of whom are dubbed “pedros,” and features sombrero-shaped restaurants and a mini-golf course aptly called El Golfo de Mexico.

Although one might appreciate the effort by the park’s creator –the late Alan Schafer– its management could use some help from the real Mexicans quickly populating the South to polish the Spanish on its Web site. See? you cannot say “Coméis con Pedro” to pitch the park’s restaurants; nor say “Compramos!” to promote shops, in which you are actually “vendiendo” not “comprando” anything. Hotels and camping sites are for sleeping, not for “siesta aquí.”

And don’t get me started on the sleepy Mexican featured on the “Contact Pedro” page. How on earth is he supposed to answer our emails when he’s always sleeping it off?

Who said Hispanics don’t like to read?


People who like to stereotype Latinos think we only watch telenovelas and crappy reality-show television, and that when it comes to literature, if its not People en Español or TV y Novelas, you can forget about us.

But now, for all of us who are into literature comes Thalia: Belleza! Lessons in Lipgloss and Happiness, a book presumably written by the former Timbiriche member and current wife of Tommy Mottola (does she have any other credentials?). Publishing house Chronicle Books said it will publish two editions, one in English and one in Spanish, and will support the launch with a major marketing campaign featuring the currently pregnant beauty.

The book’s beauty tips include how to make the most out of Latinas’ “natural skin condition” –whatever that means– and is coming soon to a bookstore near you for “only” $19.95.

I just hope Chronicle hired a good editor to work on Ms. Thalia’s writing. Last time I checked, he could not tell the difference between “prototype” and “logotype.”

A doll with ‘Hispanic facial features’

quinceanera.jpgIn their quest for innovation, Hispanic marketers cannot seem to avoid using racist notions of color and looks. Soon after Kmart announced it was releasing a line of ethnic dolls, Brass Key Inc. has now come out with its own line of Quinceañera dolls, but these are not for rough playing but small porcelain collectibles designed to “let the littlest Latinas live out their Quinceañera fantasies.”

And despite all we’ve been saying about stereotypes and Hispanic-looking people, Brass Key is quick to point out that its Princesa Quinceañera line features “distinctly Hispanic facial features and hair styles.”

Maybe I’m missing something here but a) I stopped playing with dolls when I was about 12, and b) I still haven’t figure out what a distinctly Hispanic facial feature and hair style is. Can anybody help?

Calling on Hispanic UFO’s and weird things


I love my people! … And by that I mean:

a) bloggers and

b) Hispanics in the U.S. trying to make a difference

From the depths of the Bloggosphere comes Inexplicata: The Journal of Hispanic Ufology, a daily report on UFOs and other weird stuff hailing from Spain and Latin America. The blog is the brainchild of the Institute of Hispanic Ufology, founded in 1998. The site boasts representatives and “contributing editors in over a dozen Spanish-speaking countries” who are on a daily mission to find weird stuff around.

Some recent headlines: Chupacabras Strikes Again in Reynosa; Argentina: Strange Creatures in San Luis; Spain: A Teleportation in Galicia?; Southern Chilean Lake Evaporated by UFO’s (and I’m trying to keep a straight face while I type these.)

I am sure weird stuff originating in Spain and Latin America is weirder than in the English-speaking world so I don’t know if the editors will be interested in a contributing writer in New York City. But hey! I just moved to Harlem, and the daily coexistence of Dominicans, Puerto Ricans and a recent wave of Mexicans is bringing some creepy stuff to the neighborhood: Baseball diamonds are mysteriously becoming soccer canchas, while bodegas are playing less and less merengue, stocking up on tortillas and even selling the latest single from Los Tigres del Norte.

I tell you, it might not be UFO’s but Oh God! there’s some weird stuff happening around here. Will Inexplicata be able to solve the mystery?

Here we go… Kmart stocks up on “ethnic” dolls


Now that minorities are the majority in lots of places and the U.S. Census keeps insisting Hispanic is a race, K-mart is hoping to undergo a multicultural make-over with a series of “ethnic-looking” dolls.

According to BusinessWeek, though black and Hispanic dolls have been around for a long time, the newer incarnations “try harder at authenticity, rather than simply tinting the hair and skin from “white” dolls.” (I wonder if this means they speak with an accent, eat funky food, and go out to protest against immigration laws.)

The new dolls, which will roll out in full next month, are supported by an advertising campaign in the store’s circulars and designed to appeal to black, Hispanic and Asian parents.

(In the photo: Amazing Allysen -Ethnic. $99.99, which according to the retailer’s Web site, can interact with girls through a system of voice recognition)

Nuñez and Villaraigosa: together at the puente


As the investigation into how Telemundo covered L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s marital problems came to a conclusion (with TV anchor Mirthala Salinas temporarily suspended without paid) the Latino fiesta goes on in the streets of Los Angeles in anticipation of the 8th annual Festival de la Gente, to be held Oct. 27-28 at the historic 6th Street Bridge.

According to the invitation –sent to me by a friend in LaLaLand– the event is organized by Arte Calidad Cultural Institute, and sponsored in partnership with California Assembly speaker Fabián Nuñez and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who –as everyone knows by now– seem to have the same taste in women.

The October public encounter between Nuñez and Villaraigosa will be interesting, but much more so if it gets to be covered by Telemundo 52 (we estimate Ms. Salinas will be back in business by then).

Latinos send wish list to Obama via El Piolín


As Univision Radio host Eddie “El Piolín” Sotelo was getting ready to interview Barack Obama this morning (9:00 am ET), opened up a forum inviting visitors to send in their questions and concerns to the Illinois Democrat.

Under the headline What would you ask the Candidate? Univision Online received hundreds of letters, some even in Portuguese, from all over the country and from people of all walks of life.

Here are some highlights for non-Spanish speakers:

“God may illuminate you, Piolín, so that you can come up with the best questions for Obama.”

“It is too sad to see the great eagle of freedom flying all over the skies of the U.S. while many paisanos have lost their wings to fly to their own dreams.”

“What strenght can a politician have if his arms lack pure love?”

…and my favorite one (so far)

“Qué pena vivir en un pais tan “poderoso” y a la vez tan devil [sic] como el cristal que se quiebra con el suspiro de un corazon traicionero.” (What a shame to live in such a “powerful” country, which is also as weak as the crystal which breaks with the sigh of a treacherous heart.”

Whatever happened to happy, cheerful Hispanics?


Judging from this picture (out this month in Conde Nast’s special Fashion Rocks edition, which arrived with my monthly subscription of Vanity Fair) El Cantante and la esposa de El Cantante not only look tired and bored out of their minds, they even look a bit high.

My fellow bloggers at irreverent even opened up a contest today inviting users to submit captions for the photo (above). I have not yet seen the responses, but here’s mine:

“Was that movie long or what?”

Showing my patriotic spirit and passion for grilling


If you thought you had seen it all in Hispanic marketing, wait ’till you hear about the latest from Weber-Stephen Products Co., which this week launched a Hispanic grilling contest, calling on participants to demonstrate their “patriotic spirit and passion for grilling” by entering the “Únete a la Onda Latina. ¡a Weber!” grilling contest.

According to a company a media advisory, Hispanic grillers will have until Aug. 18 to participate and win two round-trip airline tickets to a selected destination in Latin-American [SIC], among other goodies, including a professional grilling class.

And just so you know, the same company that is sending the lucky winners to Latin-American is asking participants to send original recipes and a short video demonstrating their grilling skills with “clarity of expression.”

I would love to share my grilling experience with Weber but, alas, I live in a 9th floor apartment in Manhattan (no balcony). But, I hope they will accept this picture of a “free grill” that a friend of a friend of a friend forwarded some time ago for no apparent reason and which I saved also for not apparent reason.

Helping Hispanics drink other than alcohol


You know how we Latinos are. If it’s not tequila or beer (very cold by the way) we just don’t seem to like anything, much less water. But worry no more! Hispanic marketers -as always- come to the rescue, this time with “Aloa-enhanced bottled watter.”

In a recent effort to tap the “giant Hispanic consumer market”, a company in Corpus Christi, Texas, has launched Everest Extra With Aloe, a new bottled water enhanced with Aloe, that “misterious” plant we Hispanics insist on putting everywhere.

The beverage officially was launched at last week’s Hispanic Retail conference in Dallas, Texas and is being pitched for the abundant health properties of Aloe “particularly in the Hispanic culture,” said the company in a press release.

Pssst marketers: Want Latinos to drink more water? put a little rum in it. We’ll drink it!

Aguilera brushes up on her Spanish


“I definitely want my children to know Spanish. That’s important. It’s something that I want to start speaking early on in the house, so I’m brushing up on my Spanish and taking out my lesson tapes on tour.”

Christina Aguilera in her most recent interview with In-Style magazine. The singer, who just found out she is expecting a girl, is due sometime in December. How about taking some extra clothes along with her tapes?

Fotonovelas aimed at higher education


In an effort to pitch the benefits of a higher education among Latinos in Merced County, California, a local College next week will start distributing fotonovelas, those cheesy photo-stories still popular among many Latin Americans.

According to the Merced Sun-Star, one of the stories titled “College, It’s Worth It: The Story of Antonio Vasquez,” chronicles the life of a recent high school graduate who must choose between working in the fields with his father — or pursuing a college education to follow his dream of becoming a teacher.

Judging from a page shown in the Merced Sun-Star story, it looks the texts were written by someone who was not fortunate enough to go to college (adding an extra realism to the drama, and hopefully making going to college more pressing): “No debes averguenzarte [sic] de tu familia porque no fuimos a la escuela,” says father to his son.

Viva ‘el’ créativité y ‘la’ marketing!


What happens when a Seattle-based chain of French kitchenwear stores partners with an Oklahoma-born chef specialized in “authentic” Mexican cooking? … You end up with a cookware collection called “Viva la Mexico” [sic]. Not Vive le Mexique! nor ¡Viva México!

In its most recent effort to promote ethnic stuff, Sur la Table (don’t be fooled by the French-sounding name) is pitching cookware and recipes by Rick Bayless, the Oklahoma chef specialized in Mexican food and author of several books, including Mexico, One Plate at a Time and Salsas that Cook.

As for Sur la Table, the Mexican collection includes a Molcajete for $179.95, a “reversible comal” for $79.95 and a $499 blender. Also available, things not even Mexicans knew existed: a tortilla warmer ($29.95), a chili roaster, an avocado slicer (and to think I’ve been slicing avocado with a spoon!) and my personal favorite: a $49.95 tin sign that says -what else?- Mi Casa es tu Casa.

¡Viva la diversidad!