News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Misguided furor over “reconquista ad”

Dubbed the “Reconquista Ad” in nativist circles, an advertising campaign run only in Mexico by vodka maker Absolut has touched off a storm of outrage among far-right fringe groups in the United States. Under the headline “In an Absolut world,” the ad depicts a map of North America with the borders drawn much as they were before the Mexican-American War of 1840 when Mexico governed large tracts of territory now part of the USA. The idea behind the ad campaign is that an “Absolut world” is a perfect world.

Critics claim the ad is an attack on U.S. sovereignty and see the promotion as evidence of a clandestine attempt by the Mexican government to reconquer its former territories in the U.S. through illegal immigration. The nativist outrage against the ad is unrelentingly certain of its evil intent. But if these accusations are true, a rational person has to ask: Why would an international corporation like Absolut with a substantial U.S. market take part in this subversion?

Paula Eriksson, Vice President Corporate Communications at Absolut Spirits, has already issued a public apology which states “in no way was the ad meant to offend or disparage, or advocate an altering of borders, lend support to any anti-American sentiment, or to reflect immigration issues.”

So why did Absolut create this ad for its Mexican market? The real motive is quite simple. Think how often the Confederate flag has been used to hawk products in the U.S. South. Like the appeals to the faded glory of ole’ Dixie, this Absolut ad is an attempt to tap into the wistful yearning for a lost cause on the part of the Mexican people. Savvy marketers understand that nostalgia sells.

Some may argue that this ad is still in bad taste. And that could well be true. But let’s not forget this: The War Between the States was unquestionably the greatest threat ever to U.S. sovereignty (and was instigated by English-speaking whites, I might add). Over 600,000 Americans lost their lives in this failed separatist insurrection. All the same, U.S. ad agencies still blithely sell products with the Stars and Bars every day. When was the last time you heard anyone from the far right get into a lather about that?

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

What's the difference?

Ad run in Mexico

Product sold in the USA

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