Coca-cola has withdrawn its Mexican Christmas advert amid growing controversy over its alleged racist depiction of indigenous people.
The company came under fire from campaign groups who urged the Mexican government to ban the offending advert.
The video depicts attractive light-skinned youths visiting the indigenous Mixe community of Totontepec in Oaxaca to spread the Christmas cheer by building a tree and distributing bottles of Coke to appreciative townsfolk. Coca-cola published the video on YouTube using the hashtag #AbreTuCorazon – #OpenYourHeart.
Associated Press reported on Tuesday (December 1) that The Alliance for Food Health, a coalition of consumer rights and health groups, were calling for the advert to be banned because it undermines indigenous Mexican culture.
“Coca-Cola is working on some genius colonial branding in Mexico with its out-of-touch, racist #AbreTuCorazon campaign,” one critic told Associated Press.
The YouTube video was inundated with critical comments, and although it has been removed, another version has since been uploaded. This time, with the caption: “Coca-Cola sent a bunch of white kids into an indigenous community in Mexico for a Christmas ad. What could go wrong?”
Well, quite a lot apparently. The story has been circulating furiously on the internet and, after receiving a heavy dose of criticism, the soft drinks giant decided to take the advert down.
The alleged racist content was not, however, the only cause for concern. Campaigners were also critical of the fact that the advert encourages the consumption of a product which is contributing to major health problems in Mexico.
Mexicans are avid consumers of sugary soft drinks, but the impact upon their health is troubling. The Guardian reported earlier this month that the death rate in Mexico from chronic health problems – such as diabetes and obesity – resulting from soda consumption is the highest in the world.
Another video entitled “Anti-commercial Coca-cola Christmas community Mixe Totontepec 2015” has also been published on YouTube. Coca-cola’s advert is interspersed with a Mixe man and woman talking about issues which affect the Mixe population such as “50 years ago cases of type 2 diabetes in indigenous communities were scarce, now it is beginning to be an epidemic. We must stand together to protect our dignity, our health and our culture” and “about a third of the people in Oaxaca have access to piped water.”
“Unity and joy”?
On Thursday (December 3), SinEmbargo MX reported that civil organizations, nutrition experts and members of the Mixe community are demanding that the National Council to Prevent Discrimination (CONAPRED) investigate and punish Coca-cola’s #AbreTuCorazon ad campaign.
Coca-cola told the food news website Eater that it didn’t mean to cause offense, and was only intending to share a message of joy and friendship.
“As part of Coca-Cola México’s Christmas campaign for this year the video ‘Mixe Community Totontepec’ was launched on digital channels, seeking to convey a message of unity and joy. Our intention was never to be insensitive to or underestimate any indigenous group. We have now removed the video and apologize to anyone who may have been offended. In nearly 90 years in the country, Coca-Cola Mexico has worked to share messages of unity and friendship to contribute to build a society free of prejudices.” The company responded.
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