In Mexico, you are known as gordo or flaco, meaning fat guy or skinny guy, and moreno or guero, meaning dark guy or blonde guy. These are often terms of endearment and are more endearing when used in the diminutive form, adding ito to the end of the word. When I lived in Mexico I was blind to the malice of the pet name practice, but I now hold two issues with it. Firstly, defining someone by his or her color or weight, regardless of the intention, is degrading. Secondly, as critical race theory states, “racism is ordinary, not aberrational” (Martin). Mexicans claim that essentialist pet names are common in Mexico and are therefore innocent. It is illogical that with increased use, derogatory terms become less derogatory. The following is an evaluation of Bimbo’s contribution to these issues through the advertising of the product Negrito Bimbo within Mexico’s cultural context.
Mexico is not culturally diverse, thus much of the racism that occurs there is between Mexicans. One of my friends has the last name Prieto. People say things like, “she is gorgeous, but what an unfortunate last name!” Prieto, like moreno, means dark. Despite refusing to acknowledge racist beliefs, most Mexican men prefer to be blonde guy to dark guy. Most Mexican women I know think similarly saying, “he’s handsome, but I don’t like dark guys.” The racism that dominates Mexico today is socially constructed. The stereotypical Latin lover is moreno, with richly tanned skin, black hair, and deep brown eyes. American women lust after this exotic man, while Mexican women avoid him. A study done by Salúd Pública de México revealed that student participants with dark skin experienced negative mental health effects due to discrimination convincing them they were less attractive than their light-skinned peers (Ortiz-Hernandez et al. 125).
The lack of diversity within the country likely contributes to the racism exhibited towards people of other nations. In conjunction with pejorative remarks regarding dark skin, exists the term negrito. Whether referring to 50 cent, Barack Obama, or Muhammad Ali, the term negrito is used, meaning little black guy. Negrito, now called Nito, is a chocolate-covered, hotdog-shaped cake. The treat’s brand is built around a derogatory nickname. Since its debut, the product’s logo has gone from being a stereotypical African caricature named Negrito, to having ambiguously colored skin and the subtler name Nito.
Although Bimbo has advanced since their 1972 commercial displaying a dancing African cartoon character singing, “I’m Bimbo’s little black guy, at your orders” (Bimbo), their 2012 commercial still has faults. The latter is free of dialogue and showcases a Mexican subway station filled with light-skinned characters. Policemen attempt to stop a group from boarding the subway, until three students bite their Negrito chocolate, grow Afros, and begin to dance to disco music. Everyone forms a circle around the dancers and joins in. The main characters board the subway and continue to dance. It ends with a voiceover of the chocolate’s slogan: “it will make its mark on you”.
The commercial targets youth. The main characters overcome authority to achieve the desired result, which is relatable for children and teenagers. Everyone who sees the students consume the treat develops favorable opinions of them, appealing to youth’s desire to fit in. The slogan implies that Negrito will positively impact you and others will notice. The experience appears to be exciting and enjoyable.
Disco dance was born around the same time as Negrito became popular, which explains the dance in the advertisement. African-American communities throughout the United States popularized the dance and its success was a source of pride for many of them (Friedland 28). Bimbo has taken this dance away from its roots, stripping it of its cultural and political significance. The use of the Afro can be compared to blackface, as the white performers are representing African-American disco dancers of the 1970s and are acting comically. The dancers in the advertisement are the center of attention, entertaining the crowd with their carefree attitude and love of dance, adhering to the African stereotype of the jolly entertainer.
Bimbo has featured animals as their brand logos for other treats, so I decided to do this as well. Perrito takes the place of Negrito and provides the company with endless opportunities for sweetness puns. Additionally, hot dogs are occasionally referred to as perritos. Since the treat is hotdog-shaped, the name is fitting. Little Dog could be shown dancing to a variety of music to keep the advertisement entertaining, but not racially specific. He can also be popular and rebel against authority as Negrito does to appeal to youth. Just as Negrito is chocolate colored, so is he, but Perrito is not named based on his color. Perrito is less gender specific and may increase sales amongst females. Simply shortening Negrito to Nito has done nothing to eliminate the racism of the product. A complete rebranding of the treat is required.
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