Hispanic/Latino Trope in Media

The Hispanic/Latino/Mexican trope in the media is a contentious one (and for good reason). Often times the use of a Hispanic person or reference to Hispanic culture in advertising is deeply rooted in stereotypical ideas produced by non-Hispanics. Stereotypes relating to appearances, crime, laziness, “job-stealing”, education, and others appear across all forms of media still today. Hispanic women are often portrayed as being “fiery” or “feisty” (like Sophia Vergara’s character in Modern Family). Hispanic men are portrayed as being “lazy” or “uneducated” (Mastro). The idea that Hispanic representations were something to be dominated developed after the Spanish-American War when the United States gained control over Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines. Even before the war, Latin America was seen as America’s “backyard” (and still is, today). Some mass-produced communications took advantage of this dynamic in their advertising, while others produced advertisements without further perpetuating harmful stereotypes of Spanish-speaking people and culture.


1967: Frito-Lay Fritos Bandito Commercial (medium = TV advertisement)

The Frito Bandito was the mascot for Frito corn chips. The character in the animation features an exaggerated Hispanic accent, a mustache, sombrero, and two guns at his side. In his song, he warns viewers to hide their bags of Fritos for someone (he) may steal them. The commercial and development of the character enforced criminalistic stereotypes of Hispanics. One might think the Frito Bandito was an attempt to add authenticity to the corn chip snack, but the character was just a harmful generalization. The Mexican American Anti-Defamation Committee filed a lawsuit in December 1970 which resulted in the company making the Frito Bandito appear more “friendly” (Schwartz). Though Frito-Lay surveyed Mexican Americans and claimed that only 8% of those surveyed were offended by the Frito Bandito, the commercial was removed from the air in January 1971.

1983: GOYA Frijoles Negros Advertisement (medium = poster)

In this advertisement, GOYA’s black beans are being promoted by an older Hispanic man with a cigar in hand. The setting pictured on the poster appears to be one of Hispanic nature. Because the poster is in Spanish, I imagine the advertisement was aimed at Spanish-speaking people. Black beans (and other beans) are a large part of Mexican cuisine, and this advertisement wanted to sell their beans by tapping into that comforting feeling to do with familiar food. The text at the top translates to, “The same as in my town, there, where I left my heart,”. GOYA’s advertisement likely stirred up some nostalgia in its targeted audience in attempt to sell more products.

Late 20th Century: Mexico One Mile Sign (medium = billboard)

This billboard is an advertisement for Chimi’s (a Mexican restaurant). It features a road sign with a man wearing a sombrero and riding a donkey. Donkeys are prominent in Mexican culture and are therefore often used to symbolize things related to Mexico. Donkeys were brought to Mexico by Spanish conquistadors and were used to carry large loads. Some rural areas still use them, but more urban areas use tractors, cars, and trucks (Garcia-Navarro). In the context of the advertisement, I think the goal was to lend authenticity to the Mexican restaurant. Looking at it now, in 2021, it seems a little tone-deaf. Back in the late 80s-90s, however, advertisements like this that perpetuate stereotypes may not be seen as such.

Works Cited

“DAMAGE SUIT SCORES `FRITO BANDITO’ ADS.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Jan. 1971, www.nytimes.com/1971/01/01/archives/damage-suit-scores-frito-bandito-ads.html.

Garcia-Navarro, Lulu. Celebrating the Burro in Mexico. 8 May 2005, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4635078.

“Igual Que En Mi Pueblo, Alli, Donde Deje El Corazon.” Omeka RSS, raceandethnicity.org/exhibits/show/latinos-and-advertising/item/408.

“Latinos and Advertising.” Omeka RSS, raceandethnicity.org/exhibits/show/latinos-and-advertising/latinos-and-advertising.

Mastro, Dana. “The Cultivation of Social Perceptions of Latinos: A Mental Models Approach.” Taylor & Francis, 5 Dec. 2007, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15213260701286106.

“Mexico One Mile.” Omeka RSS, raceandethnicity.org/exhibits/show/latinos-and-advertising/item/786.

Schwartz, Ralph. “The Real Reason Fritos Got Rid Of Their Mascot.” Mashed.com, Mashed, 13 Oct. 2020, www.mashed.com/260803/the-real-reason-fritos-got-rid-of-their-mascot/.