by Ryan Almodovar
I always tell myself I’m not going to watch Christmas specials in December, and every year, like a sucker, I find myself glued to the set watching some kind of clay-mation nightmare unfold before my eyes. This year, somewhere between Rudolph’s Shiny New Year, and Year without a Santa Claus (which I had no idea even existed, I saw a commercial for Old El Paso tacos. I normally don’t pay too much mind to commercials, but this one made me take notice
The commercial begins with two crowds standing in the street, calling to mind the Shark and the Jets of Westside Story fame, except instead of snapping to Leonard Bernstein, they’re threateningly holding soft and hard tacos at each other. The scene changes to two kids arguing over the kitchen table, yelling “suave” and “duro” back and forth while subtitles translate underneath. Their mother comes over with a sombrero, where the kids start pulling choices out the hat. This is actually how I decided which college to go to, and how I’m handling all major life decisions from here on out.
Apparently the sombrero isn’t enough, so the head of the household has to consult the wheel of tacos— which you know, is located in every Hispanic dining room. Then, in a moment of clarity and enlightenment, the little girl shrugs and says, “Porque no los dos?” The dad’s face lights up in a way that I imagine similar to the face you’d make if you had attained inner peace. Finally—soft and hard tacos in THE SAME BOX! The little girl is lifted on to the shoulders of the crowds from the street, and a band is now playing “La Bamba”—the new national anthem of this place that I like to call “Amigo-ville.” The taco Sharks and Jets are now dancing with their tacos, and I’m assuming that they celebrate this victory long into the night. A platter of soft shells and hard shells are shown, and a distinctively Latino voice tells me that Old El Paso now offers a little piece of heaven in a yellow box. Wow. Just…wow.
I laughed – not just a chuckle, but laughing deep and hard. I have a habit of laughing when things are inappropriate or wrong, which is a strange reaction, but I’d rather let something go as ‘funny,’ fully knowing that it’s wrong, than let anger get the worst of me. Let me keep it real for a moment: racism is not funny in any way, and only through working together to break down these barriers and misconceptions can we start to move past the ugliness that takes place in this world. But this commercial, for whatever reason, rails all Hispanics with pretty much every stereotype in the book, and somehow expects people to still buy their un-delicious shells. Granted, I don’t know too much about marketing, but I wonder how the heck this made it to the air. I didn’t buy from them before, but you can bet I won’t now.
Ryan Almodovar, Contributor
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.