Mia de Graaf, Daily Mail, December 7, 2015
Coca Cola has been forced to pull a controversial Christmas ad campaign in Mexico which saw white people descending on an indigenous community.
The clip posted online last week sparked outrage, with civil rights groups branding it offensive, racist and colonialist.
It showed white hipsters driving to the Mixe community of Totontepec Villa de Morelos in Oaxaca with bottles of coke and a Christmas tree to supposedly make them feel integrated.
The ad cites the unattributed statistic that ‘81.6 per cent of Mexico’s indigenous people feel rejected for speaking another language’, and urges viewers to ‘open your heart’.
Hitting back, a coalition of indigenous lawyers and health officials accused Atlanta-based Coca Cola of attempting to ‘impose a culture’ on the Mixe people, where diabetes and obesity levels are trending up.
And Twitter users mocked the message, with comments such as: ‘#OpenYourHeart respect indigenous communities because it’s “in”.’
Finally, after a week of controversy, the company agreed to remove the ad from YouTube on Tuesday and apologized for causing offense.
But the move has done little to hush the outrage over the ad, which is still on YouTube on other users’ accounts.
Hours after it was removed, thousands of Twitter users were still sharing TeleSUR’s searing editorial titled: This New Coca Cola Ad Shows Mexico’s White Savior Problem.
‘Fortunately for Mexico’s Indigenous, white Mexican hipsters are here to save them this Christmas with a “special message,”‘ it says.
‘It is the idea that Coca-Cola is the progress that Indigenous people lack, and therefore must be handed to them by benevolent white folks. Because if the Indigenous would resist this, and the implicit corporate exploitation, then surely they must be against progress, and therefore necessarily backward.’
The editorial goes on to compare the advert to the Requerimiento of 1512–a text colonists read aloud to indigenous people, dictating that they see God as their savior and the Spanish monarchy as their ruler.
‘While the Coca-Cola ad and the colonial text are well over 500 years apart, we see little difference between the atrocious intentions driven by white saviorism. They both reveal an aim to loot Indigenous communities in the name of altruistic Christianity,’ the editorial concludes.
The Mixe community, which has a population of roughly 250,000 people, speaks a blend of eight different languages that fall under the umbrella term ‘Mixe-Zoque’.
The Coca Cola ad features the Mixe people of Totontepec, which is two hours’ drive east of Oaxaca, and eight hours’ drive south-east of Mexico City.
Slamming the ad’s ignorance, indigenous lawyer Elvira Pablo also raised the issue of health in indigenous communities.
Speaking at a press conference last week, Elvira said the ad ‘promotes the breakdown of the social fabric by trying to impose a consumer culture that alien to this community.’
Her words were supported by the Alliance for Food Health, which warned obesity levels are sky-rocketing in communities such as the Mixe.
The Alliance published a response ad in the Mixe language, according to Mashable.
It says in part: ‘Fifty years ago, cases of diabetes type 2 in our indigenous communities were rare. Now they begin to be an epidemic. In order to remain united, we must preserve our dignity, our health and our culture. In Oaxaca, we drink tejare, tea and clean water.’
In an email to Daily Mail Online, Coca Cola Mexico defended the online campaign as an attempt to promote unity.
Luis Fuentes, a spokesman for the company, added that the Mixe community approved the ad and received a donation for infrastructure development in lieu of payment.
Fuentes said: ‘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.’