Coca-Cola has issued an apology and pulled an online ad that many Mexicans criticized for being patronizing towards the country’s indigenous communities.
The ad showed a group of young, white Mexicans traveling to an indigenous town in the southern state of Oaxaca to “help” wide-eyed locals by giving them bottles of Coke and a giant Christmas tree. It has since been removed from the company's YouTube page.
The Coke campaign, set in an indigenous community known as the Mixes, encouraged people to “end prejudice” and to share the hashtag #OpenYourHeart. But it backfired. Badly.
Furious Mexicans took to Twitter and Facebook criticizing the ad’s take on race, culture and colonialism.
“Coca-Cola says open your heart while it evangelizes the mixes with its happy white apostles.”
Some Mixes responded by releasing a video in which they slammed the company in their native language, claiming that many in their community already suffer from diabetes from drinking too much soda. “To remain united we must protect our dignity, health and culture,” says one woman who appears in the video.
The Mixes are also calling on Mexico’s National Council to Prevent Discrimination (CONAPRED) to sanction the company for reinforcing stereotypes.
Coca-Cola Mexico spokesman Diego Bracamontes apologized over the weekend in a radio interview and said they decided to pull the ad because of the controversy. “We regret that the message was misinterpreted,” he told Radio Formula. “The intention of this video was to give a message of unity, we never tried to offend or underestimate anyone.”
Fusion reached out to Coca-Cola's Latin American corporate office for comment, but did not receive a response.
It’s not the first time Coca-Cola has faced criticism from Mexicans. Advocacy groups pushed back against the company in 2006 after it was revealed Coke was among the top companies lobbying against a national soda tax to fight obesity.
And although Coke has virtually become a part of everyday life in some indigenous communities — in the southern state of Chiapas many consume it more than water— the Mixes, who earlier this year slammed a French fashionista for copycatting their clothing designs, have always offered resistance to outsiders.