As someone who has almost zero interest in sports or watching them on TV, it was only this weekend that I happened to spot this Frito Lay Salsa commercial, created for the football season:
At first glance, I thought it was really creative and cool, had great music, and I love the animation, but it also stirred some discomfort in me that I had to process and I would love to hear your thoughts on…
First, the Carmen Miranda/Chiquita Banana/Sexy Señorita image has always both fascinated and repulsed me.
On one hand, she is beautiful, sultry, and seductive.
On the other, she only perpetuates the “stereotypical images of Latinos as perpetual fun-seekers, flirts, and flamboyant dancers,” always coming across as sexualized objects of entertainment and servitude.
As a Latina woman, the issues go even deeper: She is always overtly sexual. The singing and dancing while working theme is a direct tie to image of the slave, “happily” toiling and singing in the fields.
Since the stereotype is always associated with fruit and food, it only serves to sustain the image of the Latina, as the cook, the maid, always in the kitchen and perhaps the picking fields, always “dishing” it out. The fact that she’s got on full make-up, tats, a flamenco outfit, high heels, and dancing, gives it a humiliating caricaturisating Sambo touch.
Then there is the slicing and dicing, yet another link to another stereotype: A Latina who will cut you. Only this time, it’s her skirt that is doing the chopping. A nod to the vagina dentata archetype, perhaps?
She blooms in the garden, opening up like that “Spanish Harlem Rose” that’s been neglected and waiting to be cultivated, lending some element of magical realism that is only apropos of the animation and ninja stylized stunts. (After all, we all know that Latinas and all people of color have magical powers, see Magical Negro).
She’s one with nature, dancing and spinning like some insatiable whirling dervish, picking “fruit” off trees – a salute to Eve and her sin? Hot as hell but tempting too, no?
And even the music is muy caliente – The Weatherston Hays’ track used is “Hot Sauce,” described on their site as a “spicy blend of hot and hotter.” Yum! Gotta love that blend!
In the end, perhaps, I’ve gone overboard. Perhaps, I just like to analyze and scrutinize art too much and it’s all a stretch here. Maybe the makers of the ad were acutely aware of all of this and it’s all actually commentary turned over on its head to promote a product that is ultimately Latino in essence, making it genius…
Or is it just the same old, historical stereotype refined and digitized for a new generation?
Updated to add one more thought:
I remembered after a comment from a fellow blogger via email that I left one an additional issue. Rampant throughout the commercial is the transmogrification of Latino culture. We know Latinos to be a diverse group with diverse cultures, traditions and history. Yet we have a commercial for salsa (Mexican cuisine) with a dancer in a flamenco dress(Spain), dancing to some “latin” music…treating the Latino aspect as a whole, one homogenous synthesis of all they could fit in.