(PNS reporting from ATLANTA) African-American and Latino organizations are furious over a new marketing campaign for Black Mambo Malt Liquor, the first beverage specifically targeted to the Afro-Latino market.
In the first controversial commercial, a young, spicy Afro-Latino spokesmodel named Ricky Martin Luther King was digitally inserted into footage of civil rights speeches to talk about civil rights and their connection to drinking malt liquor.
The so-called “I Have a Drink!” ad, which was directed by Quentin Tarantino, has infuriated both the black and Hispanic communities.
“This ad is an insult to everything Martin Luther King stood for. It is an insult to the civil rights movement. And it is an insult to insinuate that either Latinos or African-Americans actually drink Black Mambo,” says Ron de Cuba, author of the book 40 Ounces and a Mule: A History of Alcohol and Slavery in America.
“Madison Avenue has never understood what our community needs or wants,” says de Cuba, a longtime critic of alcohol advertising aimed at ethnic groups like Latinos. “We don’t want Ricky Martin, and we certainly don’t want Black Mambo.”
De Cuba also blasts Madison Avenue for preying on ethnic stereotypes for its malt liquor campaigns.
“We are not all gangbangers,” says de Cuba. “Plus, no self respecting Latino or African-American person would ever be caught pouring out some Black Mambo for a dead homie.”
De Cuba cites other failed Latino-themed products, such as the Chevy Nova, the Frida Bandida corn chip campaign, Four Loko and the tragically inappropriate Cool Arrow jeans.
The “I Have a Drink!” ad is the latest in a trend that critics say seeks to appropriate iconographies and profit from erasing individual Latino national identities and replacing them with one generic “Pan Latino” marketing group.
“It is cultural genocide,” says de Cuba. “The aim is to erase distinct social, political and cultural histories. A Mexican is not a Puerto Rican is not a Cuban. And none of them are Guatemalan. All you have to do is look at a dance floor,” says de Cuba. “Let’s not kid ourselves.”
According to de Cuba, promoting a Pan Latino identity destroys the richness and individual strengths of each culture.
“If I order Mexican pan dulce with my morning coffee, then why would I want pan Latino put on my plate?” he asks. “It doesn’t even sound tasty.”
The second ad, which is scheduled to be released next week, already has activists throughout Latin America up in arms.
In this ad, spicy dancers dressed as Latin American revolutionaries drink Black Mambo and shimmy to a “Latin” beat around their leader, a beret-wearing spokesmodel fashioned after Jennifer Lopez. The spokesmodel, named “Che Lo,” proclaims, “The true revolutionary is motivated by feelings of love…for Black Mambo!”
“This is just sick,” says de Cuba. “I mean you can’t tell if this character is a man or a woman. I mean Che Lo looks like a woman, but with the beard, I mean it’s just all really in bad taste. ‘Che Lo’ is a new low.”
A lawyer for Jennifer Lopez says the actress/singer/dancer/spokesmodel plans to sue the advertising firm for posterior copyright infringement.